Nagging questions remain on second round of quantitative easing
As the Federal Open Market Committee prepares to convene for its next meeting in a few weeks, officials and economists hold contradicting views on the best way to revive the struggling economy. Bill Gross, head of PIMCO, the largest bond fund in the world, told Bloomberg Friday that the September nonfarm payroll data indicate the Federal Reserve will probably announce plans to buy $100 billion of government securities to keep borrowing costs low. Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said Thursday he wonders if initiating another round of Treasurys purchases to push interest rates lower and add more liquidity will prompt businesses and consumers spend it. John Higgins, senior market economist at Capital Economics, said the problem with the so-called quantitative easing is "that while it gives banks the opportunity to lend more, it does not mean that they will do so." Besides, the fed funds rate has been next to nothing – 0% to 0.25% – since December 2008. "It might be more appropriate, perhaps, for the Treasury to undertake a targeted fiscal initiative to improve credit availability to small businesses," Fisher said to the Economic Club of Minnesota. "For mid- and large-sized nonfinancial firms, capital is fairly abundant in America, and it is unclear how much they would benefit from lowering Treasury interest rates." One reporter at The Economist doesn't seem to care what Fisher has to say. Meanwhile on CNBC Friday morning, James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said it will be hard for the FOMC to justify another round of asset purchase because "the economy has slowed but it hasn't slowed so much." And Thomas Hoening, head of the Kansas City Fed, has continually banged the drum for no additional expansion of the Fed's balance sheet. He has voted against every FOMC policy decision this year, arguing the purchases don't support the committee's policy objectives of maximum employment and price stability. But last week New York Fed president William Dudley said "the current situation is wholly unsatisfactory," according to The New York Times. And Chicago Fed chief Charles Evans said it's desirable for the committee to undertake additional Treasurys purchases. So, will they? Or won't they? "While none of us are satisfied with the current pace of economic expansion and job creation, presently it is not clear that conditions warrant further crisis-like deployment of the Fed’s arsenal," Fisher said. Write to Jason Philyaw.