Posts filed under “Federal Reserve”
Lessons at the Zero Bound: The Japanese and U.S. Experience William C. Dudley, President and Chief Executive Officer, NY Fed Remarks at the Japan Society, New York City May 21, 2013 It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak today at the Japan Society.1 Our countries have very close relations and…Read More
Economic Prospects for the Long Run
Chairman Ben S. Bernanke
At Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
May 18, 2013
Let me start by congratulating the graduates and their parents. The word “graduate” comes from the Latin word for “step.” Graduation from college is only one step on a journey, but it is an important one and well worth celebrating.I think everyone here appreciates what a special privilege each of you has enjoyed in attending a unique institution like Simon’s Rock. It is, to my knowledge, the only “early college” in the United States; many of you came here after the 10th or 11th grade in search of a different educational experience. And with only about 400 students on campus, I am sure each of you has felt yourself to be part of a close-knit community. Most important, though, you have completed a curriculum that emphasizes creativity and independent critical thinking, habits of mind that I am sure will stay with you.
What’s so important about creativity and critical thinking? There are many answers. I am an economist, so I will answer by talking first about our economic future–or your economic future, I should say, because each of you will have many years, I hope, to contribute to and benefit from an increasingly sophisticated, complex, and globalized economy. My emphasis today will be on prospects for the long run. In particular, I will be looking beyond the very real challenges of economic recovery that we face today–challenges that I have every confidence we will overcome–to speak, for a change, about economic growth as measured in decades, not months or quarters.
Many factors affect the development of the economy, notably among them a nation’s economic and political institutions, but over long periods probably the most important factor is the pace of scientific and technological progress. Between the days of the Roman Empire and when the Industrial Revolution took hold in Europe, the standard of living of the average person throughout most of the world changed little from generation to generation. For centuries, many, if not most, people produced much of what they and their families consumed and never traveled far from where they were born. By the mid-1700s, however, growing scientific and technical knowledge was beginning to find commercial uses.
Since then, according to standard accounts, the world has experienced at least three major waves of technological innovation and its application. The first wave drove the growth of the early industrial era, which lasted from the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s. This period saw the invention of steam engines, cotton-spinning machines, and railroads. These innovations, by introducing mechanization, specialization, and mass production, fundamentally changed how and where goods were produced and, in the process, greatly increased the productivity of workers and reduced the cost of basic consumer goods.
The second extended wave of invention coincided with the modern industrial era, which lasted from the mid-1800s well into the years after World War II. This era featured multiple innovations that radically changed everyday life, such as indoor plumbing, the harnessing of electricity for use in homes and factories, the internal combustion engine, antibiotics, powered flight, telephones, radio, television, and many more. The third era, whose roots go back at least to the 1940s but which began to enter the popular consciousness in the 1970s and 1980s, is defined by the information technology (IT) revolution, as well as fields like biotechnology that improvements in computing helped make possible. Of course, the IT revolution is still going on and shaping our world today.
Fiscal Policy. Oy!
(With Reference to Ben Bernanke, Ken Arrow, Thomas Jefferson, William Shakespeare and the Oracle of Omaha)
Richard W. Fisher
Remarks at the 2013 National Association for Business Economics
Houston, TX · May 16, 2013
Thank you, Ken (Simonson). I am delighted that the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) has chosen the Dallas Fed’s Houston Branch as the venue for this meeting on the oil and gas boom as a possible engine for “Reigniting the Economy.” As you will shortly hear from my Dallas Fed colleague, Mine Yücel; my wise old colleague from my days at Treasury in the 1970s, Phil Verleger; the incoming chairman of our San Antonio Branch, Curt Anastasio; and others, this is an intriguing proposition. The technical and entrepreneurial genius of Houston and Texas is playing a key role in unlocking our nation’s energy potential. Indeed, there are many here in Texas and abroad—in places as distant as Illinois, Michigan and New York—who argue that reigniting their local economies and the nation’s economy calls for more “Texification,” above and beyond the frontiers of energy.
But I am not here today to discuss oil and gas or engage in “Texas brag.” I have been asked to provide a broader perspective on the nation’s economic and monetary policy.
Current Predicament of Monetary Policy: A Grand Experiment
I’ll begin with a summary of the current predicament of monetary policy.
The Federal Reserve has undertaken a grand experiment to reignite the economy through unprecedented monetary accommodation. We cut to zero the base rate that anchors the yield curve and have pursued a policy aimed at driving rates throughout the curve to historic lows by buying Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Our portfolio totals about $3 trillion, which we have recently been expanding at a rate of $85 billion per month.
Here is a picture of the domestic securities of the current System Open Market Account (SOMA) portfolio. 
Monitoring the Financial System
Chairman Ben S. Bernanke
At the 49th Annual Conference on Bank Structure and Competition sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois May 10, 2013
We are now more than four years beyond the most intense phase of the financial crisis, but its legacy remains. Our economy has not yet fully regained the jobs lost in the recession that accompanied the financial near collapse. And our financial system–despite significant healing over the past four years–continues to struggle with the economic, legal, and reputational consequences of the events of 2007 to 2009.
The crisis also engendered major shifts in financial regulatory policy and practice. Not since the Great Depression have we seen such extensive changes in financial regulation as those codified in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) in the United States and, internationally, in the Basel III Accord and a range of other initiatives. This new regulatory framework is still under construction, but the Federal Reserve has already made significant changes to how it conceptualizes and carries out both its regulatory and supervisory role and its responsibility to foster financial stability.
In my remarks today I will discuss the Federal Reserve’s efforts in an area that typically gets less attention than the writing and implementation of new rules–namely, our ongoing monitoring of the financial system. Of course, the Fed has always paid close attention to financial markets, for both regulatory and monetary policy purposes. However, in recent years, we have both greatly increased the resources we devote to monitoring and taken a more systematic and intensive approach, led by our Office of Financial Stability Policy and Research and drawing on substantial resources from across the Federal Reserve System. This monitoring informs the policy decisions of both the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Open Market Committee as well as our work with other agencies.
The step-up in our monitoring is motivated importantly by a shift in financial regulation and supervision toward a more macroprudential, or systemic, approach, supplementing our traditional microprudential perspective focused primarily on the health of individual institutions and markets. In the spirit of this more systemic approach to oversight, the Dodd-Frank Act created the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), which is comprised of the heads of a number of federal and state regulatory agencies. The FSOC has fostered greater interaction among financial regulatory agencies as well as a sense of common responsibility for overall financial stability. Council members regularly discuss risks to financial stability and produce an annual report, which reviews potential risks and recommends ways to mitigate them.1 The Federal Reserve’s broad-based monitoring efforts have been essential for promoting a close and well-informed collaboration with other FSOC members.
A Focus on Vulnerabilities
Ongoing monitoring of the financial system is vital to the macroprudential approach to regulation. Systemic risks can only be defused if they are first identified. That said, it is reasonable to ask whether systemic risks can in fact be reliably identified in advance; after all, neither the Federal Reserve nor economists in general predicted the past crisis. To respond to this point, I will distinguish, as I have elsewhere, between triggers and vulnerabilities.2 The triggers of any crisis are the particular events that touch off the crisis–the proximate causes, if you will. For the 2007-09 crisis, a prominent trigger was the losses suffered by holders of subprime mortgages. In contrast, the vulnerabilities associated with a crisis are preexisting features of the financial system that amplify and propagate the initial shocks. Examples of vulnerabilities include high levels of leverage, maturity transformation, interconnectedness, and complexity, all of which have the potential to magnify shocks to the financial system. Absent vulnerabilities, triggers might produce sizable losses to certain firms, investors, or asset classes but would generally not lead to full-blown financial crises; the collapse of the relatively small market for subprime mortgages, for example, would not have been nearly as consequential without preexisting fragilities in securitization practices and short-term funding markets which greatly increased its impact. Of course, monitoring can and does attempt to identify potential triggers–indications of an asset bubble, for example–but shocks of one kind or another are inevitable, so identifying and addressing vulnerabilities is key to ensuring that the financial system overall is robust. Moreover, attempts to address specific vulnerabilities can be supplemented by broader measures–such as requiring banks to hold more capital and liquidity–that make the system more resilient to a range of shocks.