Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We're all ZIRP! now

ZIRP - Zero Interest Rate Policy

FOMC Statement from http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/monetary/20081216b.htm

Release Date: December 16, 2008
For immediate release

The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to establish a target range for the federal funds rate of 0 to 1/4 percent.

Since the Committee's last meeting, labor market conditions have deteriorated, and the available data indicate that consumer spending, business investment, and industrial production have declined. Financial markets remain quite strained and credit conditions tight. Overall, the outlook for economic activity has weakened further.

Meanwhile, inflationary pressures have diminished appreciably. In light of the declines in the prices of energy and other commodities and the weaker prospects for economic activity, the Committee expects inflation to moderate further in coming quarters.

The Federal Reserve will employ all available tools to promote the resumption of sustainable economic growth and to preserve price stability. In particular, the Committee anticipates that weak economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for some time.

The focus of the Committee's policy going forward will be to support the functioning of financial markets and stimulate the economy through open market operations and other measures that sustain the size of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet at a high level. As previously announced, over the next few quarters the Federal Reserve will purchase large quantities of agency debt and mortgage-backed securities to provide support to the mortgage and housing markets, and it stands ready to expand its purchases of agency debt and mortgage-backed securities as conditions warrant. The Committee is also evaluating the potential benefits of purchasing longer-term Treasury securities. Early next year, the Federal Reserve will also implement the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility to facilitate the extension of credit to households and small businesses. The Federal Reserve will continue to consider ways of using its balance sheet to further support credit markets and economic activity.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; Christine M. Cumming; Elizabeth A. Duke; Richard W. Fisher; Donald L. Kohn; Randall S. Kroszner; Sandra Pianalto; Charles I. Plosser; Gary H. Stern; and Kevin M. Warsh.

In a related action, the Board of Governors unanimously approved a 75-basis-point decrease in the discount rate to 1/2 percent. In taking this action, the Board approved the requests submitted by the Boards of Directors of the Federal Reserve Banks of New York, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and San Francisco. The Board also established interest rates on required and excess reserve balances of 1/4 percent.

Ok so I havent posted in a long time. I was caught up in the post election euphoria that we actually elected Barack Obama. Well I'm back - shocked into writing again - by what else - a historic decision by the US Federal Reserve under Ben "Helicopter" Bernanke. Clearly, and I mean clearly, we're in uncharted waters now. Since the white house is not taking the proper policy actions - the Fed is throwing everything and the kitchen sink into play here. I knew that we might end up here about a year ago when I read and commented on the Calculated Risk blog - about Fed members speculating about zero bound. But to actually be here... holy crapsheet. I think the banks at some point will have no choice but to start lending again. But some of them are still insolvent. The market may bounce for now, but until the insolvency issue gets resolved - I dont think you will have a sustainable rally. But it does seem that the Fed is trying very, very hard to ring fence that issue and let the rest of the economy recover. There are still structural issues in the economy - such as the fact that manufacturing accounts for a much smaller pie in GDP and that US consumers are becoming savers - that we will need to surmount - but ring fencing the problems on Wall Street is certainly welcome. That combined with the Obama Stimulus Plan in Jan 2009 will mitigate the seriousness of this recession. With these actions, I still continue with my prior prediction of an end to this recession late 2009 / early 2010 and a possible HUGE expansion worldwide later in 2010. Time will tell.