As I mentioned in the weekly schedule, the most anticipated event this coming week is Fed Chairman Bernanke’s speech at Jackson Hole on Friday.
Here are some preliminary thoughts about the speech …
• Last year Bernanke paved the way for QE2 with his Jackson Hole speech on August 27, 2010. Bernanke outlined three possible policy options for additional monetary accommodation: 1) additional purchases of longer-term securities (QE2), 2) change extended period language (the FOMC just did this), and 3) lower the rate of interest that the Fed pays banks on the reserves.
• It is likely that Bernanke will again outline policy options for further easing. It appears that Bernanke will once again discuss the possibility of additional purchases of longer-term securities (QE3), and some analysts have suggested that Bernanke will also discuss changing the composition of the balance sheet (keeping the size of the balance sheet stable, but changing the mix toward longer term securities). There will probably be some discussion of other options – like a higher inflation target – but just like last year, Bernanke will probably argue against these options.
• Bernanke will NOT commit to any option. Any further easing will be announced by the FOMC. However Bernanke might provide clues as he did last year. Here is what he said:
Under what conditions would the FOMC make further use of these or related policy tools? At this juncture, the Committee has not agreed on specific criteria or triggers for further action, but I can make two general observations.
First, the FOMC will strongly resist deviations from price stability in the downward direction. …
Second, regardless of the risks of deflation, the FOMC will do all that it can to ensure continuation of the economic recovery. …
He might change these comments a little this year.
“The Committee now expects a somewhat slower pace of recovery over coming quarters than it did at the time of the previous meeting and anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline only gradually toward levels that the Committee judges to be consistent with its dual mandate. Moreover, downside risks to the economic outlook have increased.”
Since the FOMC expects the unemployment rate to decline gradually, they probably expect trend growth (as opposed to the very slow growth that many analysts expect). That is consistent with comments from NY Fed President William Dudley this week:
Some of the weakness in economic activity in the first half of the year was due to temporary factors such as the hit to household income from higher food and energy prices, and supply chain disruptions following the tragic earthquake in Japan. These restraining forces have abated and thus, we should see stronger growth in the second half. But it is clear that not all of the weakness was due to these one-time factors—and in light of this, I have revised down my expectations for the pace of recovery going forward.
And from Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto:
My latest forecast is for the economy to grow at a rate of about 2 per cent this year, and about 3 per cent in each of the next two years. Our economy has to grow at about a 2-1/2 per cent clip just to absorb new labour force entrants and to keep the unemployment rate from rising.
That is still weak growth, but more optimistic than many analysts.
• My guess is Bernanke will outline some policy options, and probably focus on changing the composition of the balance sheet as the first choice. Additional asset purchases (QE3) will probably be discussed too.