Posts filed under “Think Tank”

Morning stuff

The purchase component of the weekly MBA data reflected no bounce after the Nov 6th extension of the home buying tax credit. It fell 4.7% for the week and is lower for 6 straight weeks at the lowest since Nov ’97 even as the average 30 yr mortgage rate fell to the lowest level since May at 4.83%. We should expect some fence sitters to come off now that the tax credit is alive thru the spring but if it doesn’t in the next few weeks it begs the question of how much demand was pulled forward. Oct Housing Starts are out today. Refi’s fell 1.4% but comes after large gains in the prior two weeks. ABC confidence rose 1 pt to a 6 week high led by the personal finance component which rose to an 11 week high. Ahead of the CPI report at 8:30, y/o/y CPI in Canada rose for the first time since May but in line with forecasts. Today’s y/o/y drop is expected to be the smallest over the past 7 months as the inflation comparisons get much easier. II said bears fell to the lowest since Aug.

Category: MacroNotes

Policy Challenges for the Federal Reserve

Vice Chairman Donald L. Kohn

At the Kellogg Distinguished Lecture Series, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
November 16, 2009

Policy Challenges for the Federal Reserve

I titled my talk “Policy Challenges for the Federal Reserve.” I did that before I knew what I was going to discuss, because just about any topic involving the Federal Reserve would entail policy challenges. So let me begin by narrowing the topic just a bit: I would like to talk about the challenges that lie at the intersection of monetary policy and financial stability.

Our economy is just beginning to recover from a horrendous episode in which mispricing of risk–especially in home mortgage lending, but more broadly as well–led to financial instability that in turn led to a severe recession. Much attention is, appropriately, being focused on the implications of this episode for the reform of financial regulation. The Congress, financial regulators, and analysts are debating those critical issues.

I will focus on some possible implications of the recent episode for monetary policy. The questions I want to address are, first, how should we take account of financial stability in the conduct of monetary policy–for example, should financial stability be another specific responsibility of monetary policy, in addition to its responsibilities for promoting maximum employment and stable prices? And second, what do the crisis and our response imply for the monetary policy tools of the Federal Reserve? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I thought it would be useful to discuss them.1 Importantly, I speak only for myself, not for my colleagues on the Federal Open Market Committee.2

Monetary Policy and Financial Stability
Traditionally, most analysts thought that when monetary policy successfully promoted economic stability, it would also promote financial stability. When business cycle swings are moderate and inflation rates are low and predictable, households and firms can make and follow through on long-term plans for spending, saving, and investment. Lending institutions can better evaluate the likely profitability of capital projects, thus reducing their risk of credit loss. And the moderate swings in long-term interest rates and other asset prices that were thought to be fostered by such an environment should tend to limit the exposure of balance sheets.

However, although monetary policy over the past several decades did help foster economic stability, some have questioned whether it also contributed substantially to the lax practices that led to the buildup of financial vulnerabilities and the resulting severe recession. Two aspects of the Federal Reserve’s conduct of monetary policy are cited by these critics. One, some assert that we responded asymmetrically to movements in asset prices, easing aggressively in response to declines and not tightening correspondingly when asset prices rose. This perceived asymmetry is alleged to have given market participants the sense that they could engage in a one-way bet–that the Federal Reserve would cushion asset-price declines with cheap money but would not increase interest rates to make it more expensive for them to finance bets that asset prices would rise. Second, some believe that the Federal Reserve kept policy too loose around 2003 and then tightened too slowly and predictably in 2004 and 2005, in effect encouraging if not underwriting the bubble in house prices that lay behind so many of our troubles over the past two years.

My perspective is that policymakers have kept their eyes firmly on medium-term macroeconomic stability–that is, on the legislated objectives of maximum employment and stable prices. We responded to developments in asset and credit markets to the extent that they affected the macroeconomic outlook, but we did not assign them extra weight in our deliberations. In particular we did not react asymmetrically to asset-price developments; it only looks that way on the surface because asset prices tend to rise slowly and fall rapidly. Had we been more ready to ease than to tighten monetary policy, the economy would have tended to run above its productive potential on average and inflation would have risen. In fact, inflation fell over the 1980s and 1990s.

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Category: Federal Reserve, Think Tank

Treasury yields head lower as US govt CDS creeps higher

While the US Treasury market is having another impressive day that is sending yields down to 3.32%, the lowest since Oct 8th on a closing basis, the 5 yr CDS in US government debt is rising today to 30 bps, the highest since July 29th when the 10 yr bond yield closed at 3.66%. It…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Nov NAHB survey but includes tax credit uncertainty

The Nat’l Assoc of Home Builders sentiment index for Nov was 17, 2 pts below expectations and flat with the Oct reading which was revised from 18. Present conditions remained unchanged but future expectations did rise 2 pts. Prospective Buyers Traffic remained punk at 13 for the 2nd straight month. The NAHB is clarifying that…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

The Financial Commentator: Special Update

~~~ November 13, 2009 Special Update Stocks In a Special Update after the close on October 14, I made the following assessment. “The overall technical health of the market is in good shape. The advance/decline line is making new recovery highs along with market averages, and the number of stocks making new highs continues to…Read More

Category: Think Tank

Relying on the kindness of strangers

NYPost CARTOON I send this to NOT make any political statement whatsoever because George Bush’s face can be superimposed on Obama’s and the cartoon will still have the same impact. I send it to highlight that relying on foreigners to finance half of our debts can last without consequence until it doesn’t. It also highlights…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Economic data

Oct PPI rose .3%, .2% less than expected and unexpectedly fell by .6% ex food and fuel vs forecasts of a gain of .1%. A sharp drop in car and truck prices was the main culprit. Motor truck prices in particular fell 5.2% m/o/m. Car prices fell .5% but follows increases in the two prior…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

From Zisler Associates (mentioned recently here), included in a recent report on the state’s finances issued by the California State Controller’s Office: > speculative-bubbles –

Category: Real Estate, Think Tank

Is the reflation trade due for a rest?

As a bull on the reflation trade for most of this year (started in earnest when Bernanke ramped up QE on March 18th when the FOMC announced they were going to start buying US Treasuries as I thought the Fed will now stop at nothing to create inflation), I’m now wondering whether Bernanke’s comments about…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

SIGTARP Report Nov 16 –

Category: Bailouts, Think Tank