The U.S. Federal Reserve has just released the transcripts from its 2008 deliberations about the financial crisis. The disclosure shows exactly what regulators were thinking at the time. The transcripts cover 14 meetings—both scheduled and emergency—which it held in 2008. They provide a more complete picture of what was happening inside the central bank as the financial crisis got worse and worse—becoming the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Fed didn’t see a recession in January
Toward the end of January 2008, regulators were hoping they would be able to avoid a recession. In fact, at the time, they weren’t “forecasting” one, according to Dave Reifschneider, who was a member of the Federal Reserve board.
This means that in just a matter of months, the U.S. economy crumbled under the watchful eyes of the Fed. Indeed, before Wall Street’s largest firms started falling, there appeared to have been few clues that a major recession was coming.
Jobs, housing markets crumble
Another key meeting shown in the documents is one in September which was held the day after Lehman Brothers officially collapsed, filing for bankruptcy. Ben Bernanke, who at the time was Fed chairman, noted that he saw the possibility of upcoming economic growth as being “quite weak” in spite of the strength the markets showed during the second quarter of the year. He also said at the meeting that the labor reports indicated to him that they were in an “official” recession.
Current Fed Chair Janet Yellen had similar views as she looked at both jobs numbers and housing. She noted that unemployment was rising along with consumer loan delinquencies. In addition, “credit availability” and the housing market were declining as the subprime mortgage industry essentially went off like a bomb.
In January, regulators also began slashing interest rates and had lowered the policy rate down to almost zero. The bond buying program known as quantitative easing also began at that time, eventually taking the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet over $4 trillion, according to CNBC.