Fed will continue bond-buying policy
WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve says its low interest-rate policies are still needed to invigorate a subpar economy.
In a statement after a policy meeting on Wednesday, the Fed said it would keep buying $85 billion a month in bonds to keep long-term rates low and encourage borrowing and spending.
Yet, the Fed seemed to signal that it thinks the economy is improving despite some recent weak data and uncertainties caused by the partial government shutdown.
The Fed no longer expresses concern, as it did in September, that higher mortgage rates could hold back hiring and economic growth. Its statement makes no reference to the 16-day shutdown, which economists say has slowed growth this quarter.
Some analysts said this suggests that the Fed might be prepared to slow its bond purchases by early next year — sooner than some have assumed.
“The tone was probably more positive on the outlook than most people expected,” said Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.
Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, said he was struck by the absence of any reference to the shutdown. He called the statement “remarkable for what it omits rather than includes.”
Ashworth said that if the Fed isn't worried about the economic impact of the shutdown, it might be ready to reduce its stimulus as early as December. He still thinks a pullback is most likely early next year. But Ashworth said the Fed's statement suggests that its timing may have shifted.
Some economists noted that Congress' budget fight has clouded the Fed's timetable for tapering its bond purchases. Though the government reopened Oct. 17 and a threatened default on its debt was averted, Congress passed only temporary fixes. More deadlines and possible disruptions lie ahead.
Without a budget deal by Jan. 15, another shutdown is possible. Congress must also raise the government's debt ceiling after Feb. 7. If not, a market-rattling default will remain a threat.
If the government manages to avert another shutdown in mid-January, Dana Saporta, an economist at Credit Suisse, said, “We could see a taper as soon as the Jan. 29th meeting.”
But she added that a continued budget impasse would likely delay any pullback in the Fed's bond purchases until March or later.
Investors seemed to conclude that the Fed might be ready to reduce its stimulus earlier than expected. The Dow Jones industrial average, which had been down 29 points before the Fed issued its statement, closed down 61 points.
And the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for rates on mortgages and other loans, rose from 2.49 percent to 2.54 percent in late-afternoon trading. That suggested that investors think long-term rates may rise because of less bond buying by the Fed.
At the same time, the Fed noted again in its statement that budget policies in Washington have restrained economic growth.
And it will stick to its low-rate policy: It reiterated that it plans to hold its key short-term rate at a record low, near zero, at least as long as the unemployment rate stays above 6.5 percent and the inflation outlook remains mild.
The Fed's policy decision was approved on a 9-1 vote. Esther George, president of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, dissented, as she has at each of the seven meetings this year. She repeated her concerns that the Fed's bond purchases could fuel high inflation and financial instability.
At its previous meeting in September, the Fed surprised investors and economists when it chose not to reduce its bond buying. Since then, the partial shutdown shaved an estimated $25 billion from economic growth this quarter. And a batch of tepid economic data point to a still-subpar economy.
Employers added just 148,000 jobs in September, a steep slowdown from August. And temporary layoffs during the shutdown are expected to depress October's job gain.
Since the September meeting, mortgage rates have fallen about half a percentage point and remain near historically low levels. During the summer, rates had jumped to two-year highs on speculation that the Fed might reduce the pace of its bond purchases before the end of this year.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Carnegie Mellon expert to school Congress on security
- Tribune-Review poll: Cable news rises as network news falls
- Lawmakers press Veterans Affairs for improved access to rural health care
- Maryland’s Senator Mikulski announces retirement
- EPA ripped for evading request for information
- Clinton portrait refers to Lewinsky scandal, Philadelphia artist says
- Supreme Court justices split on states’ panels to prevent gerrymandering
- IRS audits of businesses reach 8-year low
- Several states in path of wintry blasts
- $4.8M in gold taken in armored truck hijacking in North Carolina
- 8 Amish in Ohio hair-cutting attacks to serve lesser sentences