Federal Reserve FOMC Statement: A Look at Changes in Outlook

Federal Reserve FOMC Statement: A Look at Changes in Outlook

April 2012 June 2012 Comments
Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in March suggests that the economy has been expanding moderately. Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in April suggests that the economy has been expanding moderately this year. “This year” makes it more of a historical statement, and shades the GDP view down.
Labor market conditions have improved in recent months; the unemployment rate has declined butremains elevated. However, growth in employment has slowed in recent months, and the unemployment rate remains elevated. Shades labor employment down.  Still thinks there is growth in employment rate.
Household spending and business fixed investment have continued to advance. Despite some signs of improvement, the housing sector remains depressed.  Business fixed investment has continued to advance. Household spending appears to be rising at a somewhat slower pace than earlier in the year. Despite some signs of improvement, the housing sector remains depressed. Shades down household spending.
Inflation has picked up somewhat, mainly reflecting higher prices of crude oil and gasoline. However, longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable. Inflation has declined, mainly reflecting lower prices of crude oil and gasoline, and longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable. Shades down  their view of inflation. TIPS are showing virtually unchanged inflation expectationssince the last meeting. (5y forward 5y inflation implied from TIPS.)
Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. No change.
The Committee expects economic growth to remain moderate over coming quarters and then to pick up gradually. Consequently, the Committee anticipates that the unemployment rate will declinegradually toward levels that it judges to be consistent with its dual mandate. The Committee expects economic growth to remain moderate over coming quarters and then to pick upvery gradually. Consequently, the Committee anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline only slowly toward levels that it judges to be consistent with its dual mandate. Shades down its views of future GDP growth.
Strains in global financial markets continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook. Furthermore, strains in global financial markets continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook. No real change.
The increase in oil and gasoline prices earlier this year is expected to affect inflation only temporarily, and the Committee anticipates thatsubsequently inflation will run at or below the rate that it judges most consistent with its dual mandate. The Committee anticipates that inflation over the medium term will run at or below the rate that it judges most consistent with its dual mandate. Declares victory in their view on energy prices.
To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee expects to maintain a highly accommodative stance for monetary policy. To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee expects to maintain a highly accommodative stance for monetary policy. No change.
In particular, the Committee decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that economic conditions–including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run–are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014. In particular, the Committee decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that economic conditions–including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run–are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014. No change.
The Committee also decided to continue its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities as announced in September. The Committee also decided to continue through the end of the yearits program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities.Specifically, the Committee intends to purchase Treasury securities with remaining maturities of 6 years to 30 years at the current pace and to sell or redeem an equal amount of Treasury securities with remaining maturities of approximately 3 years or less. This continuation of the maturity extension program should put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative. Extends Operation Twist for six months.  Doesn’t say how much.
The Committee is maintaining its existing policies of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securitiesand of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities. I guess the renewal of Operation Twist changes the language here.
The Committee will regularly review the size and composition of its securities holdings and is prepared to adjust those holdings as appropriate to promote a stronger economic recovery in a context of price stability. The Committee is prepared to take further action as appropriate to promote a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions in a context of price stability.
Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Dennis P. Lockhart; Sandra Pianalto; Sarah Bloom Raskin; Daniel K. Tarullo; John C. Williams; and Janet L. Yellen. Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Dennis P. Lockhart; Sandra Pianalto; Jerome H. Powell; Sarah Bloom Raskin; Jeremy C. Stein; Daniel K. Tarullo; John C. Williams; and Janet L. Yellen. Adds in the two new doves; can’t have enough groupthink.
Voting against the action was Jeffrey M. Lacker, who does not anticipate that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate through late 2014. Voting against the action was Jeffrey M. Lacker, who opposed continuation of the maturity extension program. Does this mean Lacker is on board with policy accommodation through 2014?  Don’t think so, but maybe a reporter should ask.

 

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  • Operation Twist is extended for six months, but there is no amount set for it.  Looks like an oversight, then again, they may not have a lot of bonds three years and shorter to sell.
  • The changes are significant, because in the space of one meeting, they went from things are good to things are bad.  They shaded down their views on GDP growth, employment, inflation, and household spending.
  • In my opinion, I don’t think holding down longer-term rates on the highest-quality debt will have any impact on lower quality debts, which is where most of the economy finances itself.
  • Also, the reinvestment in Agency MBS should have limited impact because so many owners are inverted, or ineligible for financing backed by the GSEs, and implicitly the government, even with the recently announced refinancing changes.
  • The key variables on Fed Policy are capacity utilization, unemployment, inflation trends, and inflation expectations.  As a result, the FOMC ain’t moving rates up, absent increases in employment, or a US Dollar crisis.  Labor employment is the key metric.
  • Do they want the yield on 30 year TIPS to go negative?  Looks that way.
  • GDP growth is not improving much if at all, and the unemployment rate improvement comes more from discouraged workers.  Inflation has moderated, but whether it will stay that way is another question.

Questions for Dr. Bernanke:

  • Is it possible that you don’t really know what would have worked to solve the Great Depression, and you are just committing an entirely new error that will result in a larger problem for us later?
  • Why do think extending the period of accommodation by a little more than two years will have any significant effect on the economy, aside from stock and bond prices?
  • Discouraged workers are a large factor in the falling unemployment rate. Why do you think the economy is doing well?
  • Couldn’t increased unemployment be structural, after all, there is a lot more competition from labor in emerging markets?
  • Why do you think that holding down longer-term rates on the highest-quality debt will have any impact on lower quality debts, which is where most of the economy finances itself?
  • Why will reinvestment in Agency MBS help the economy significantly?  Doesn’t that only help solvent borrowers on the low end of housing, who don’t really need the help?
  • Isn’t stagflation a possibility here?  I mean, no one expected it in the ‘70s either.
  • Could we end up with another debt bubble from keeping short rates so low?
  • If the Fed ever does shrink its balance sheet, what effect will it have on the banks?

 

By David Merkel, CFA of Aleph Blog

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David J. Merkel, CFA, FSA — 2010-present, I am working on setting up my own equity asset management shop, tentatively called Aleph Investments. It is possible that I might do a joint venture with someone else if we can do more together than separately. From 2008-2010, I was the Chief Economist and Director of Research of Finacorp Securities. I did a many things for Finacorp, mainly research and analysis on a wide variety of fixed income and equity securities, and trading strategies. Until 2007, I was a senior investment analyst at Hovde Capital, responsible for analysis and valuation of investment opportunities for the FIP funds, particularly of companies in the insurance industry. I also managed the internal profit sharing and charitable endowment monies of the firm. From 2003-2007, I was a leading commentator at the investment website RealMoney.com. Back in 2003, after several years of correspondence, James Cramer invited me to write for the site, and I wrote for RealMoney on equity and bond portfolio management, macroeconomics, derivatives, quantitative strategies, insurance issues, corporate governance, etc. My specialty is looking at the interlinkages in the markets in order to understand individual markets better. I no longer contribute to RealMoney; I scaled it back because my work duties have gotten larger, and I began this blog to develop a distinct voice with a wider distribution. After three-plus year of operation, I believe I have achieved that. Prior to joining Hovde in 2003, I managed corporate bonds for Dwight Asset Management. In 1998, I joined the Mount Washington Investment Group as the Mortgage Bond and Asset Liability manager after working with Provident Mutual, AIG and Pacific Standard Life. My background as a life actuary has given me a different perspective on investing. How do you earn money without taking undue risk? How do you convey ideas about investing while showing a proper level of uncertainty on the likelihood of success? How do the various markets fit together, telling us us a broader story than any single piece? These are the themes that I will deal with in this blog. I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University. In my spare time, I take care of our eight children with my wonderful wife Ruth.