SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE
Last November 14, I wrote:
"The Fed doesn't cause inflation or deflation, but the Fed certainly mucks up the economy from time to time; e.g., lowering Fed rates to 1% which got everyone on the borrowing bandwagon and many into ARMs that were unrealistic... and then rapidly increasing Fed rates to 5.0%+ which, on a relative basis, put the costs of borrowing much higher than people could afford given their commitments at lower rates... all in the name of protecting the nation against inflation when it simply made a mess out of the financial and housing markets."On January 7, I wrote:
I've summarized what's going on regarding the Fed on my blog, but it boils do to two things: they enabled the housing bubble by making interest rates way too low and then they trapped too many people in financially untenable situations because they raised rates over 4 pp. At the end of last summer I posited that the Fed needed to take rates down immediately to 4%. They took them down gradually to 4.25%, but that simply allowed the situation to fester and make the decrease of interest rates far less effective. At this point, the Fed can do little right. Lower rates below 4% and the dollar crashes; don't lower rates and recession is probably assured. Pick your poison. 4% was the right target; the Fed process was simply inept.A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
For more, read the summary comments about the Federal Reserve in the column to the right or do a SEARCH BLOG on "Federal Reserve".The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.According to Schwartz the original sin of the Bernanke-Greenspan Fed was to hold rates at 1 per cent from 2003 to June 2004, long after the dotcom bubble was over. "It is clear that monetary policy was too accommodative. Rates of 1 per cent were bound to encourage all kinds of risky behaviour," says Schwartz.
Anna Schwartz wrote a seminal text
on the causes of the Great Depression
"They need to speak frankly to the market and acknowledge how bad the problems are, and acknowledge their own failures in letting this happen. This is what is needed to restore confidence," she told The Sunday Telegraph. "There never would have been a sub-prime mortgage crisis if the Fed had been alert. This is something Alan Greenspan must answer for," she says.
She is scornful of Greenspan's campaign to clear his name by blaming the bubble on an Asian saving glut, which purportedly created stimulus beyond the control of the Fed by driving down global bond rates. "This attempt to exculpate himself is not convincing. The Fed failed to confront something that was evident. It can't be blamed on global events," she says....
"Liquidity doesn't do anything in this situation. It cannot deal with the underlying fear that lots of firms are going bankrupt," she says. Her view is fast spreading. Goldman Sachs issued a full-recession alert on Wednesday, predicting rates of 2.5 per cent by the third quarter. "Ben Bernanke should be making stronger statements and then backing them up with decisive easing," says Jan Hatzius, the bank's US economist.
Bernanke did indeed switch tack on Thursday. "We stand ready to take substantive additional action as needed," he says, warning of a "fragile situation". It follows a surge in December unemployment from 4.7 per cent to 5 per cent, the sharpest spike in a quarter century. Inflation fears are subsiding fast.
[HT - Greg Mankiw's Blog]