Nothaft: Obama jobs plan, Fed action could mean better 2012
The Federal Reserve will need help from Congress in order to boost economic growth with its latest policy announcement, according to Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft. The Fed said last week it will purchase $400 billion in long-term Treasurys and reinvest principal and interest payments from agency mortgage-backed securities it already bought during the previous stimulus efforts in order to buy more. "By itself, monetary policy may gradually promote economic growth in the coming year. Coupling monetary with fiscal stimulus could accelerate growth in 2012 if the fiscal initiative operates in tandem," Nothaft said in an outlook report released Monday. His comments echoed banking analysts earlier Monday. He then pointed out the American Jobs Act proposed by President Obama last week. It provides $245 billion in temporary tax cuts and includes roughly $202 billion in a variety of building and mortgage refinancing programs to boost consumer spending and investments. In a town hall meeting hosted by Linked In Monday, Obama pitched Americans on the proposal, claiming spending in the program would be offset by the elimination of wasteful spending elsewhere. "It provides tax cuts to small businesses and middle-class families, who will then spend it on products and services," Obama said. "It's the right step to take right now." Nothaft pointed to a recent study done by Macroeconomic Advisers, which estimates the proposal could add roughly 1.3 million jobs and cut the unemployment rate by three- to four-tenths of a percentage point. However, the rate would still be above 8% by the end of next year. To be sure, any boost to job growth and consumer confidence will aid a struggling housing market, Nothaft said, despite the lowest interest rate since the 1950s. "With monetary policy expected to keep interest rates low for awhile, affordability will remain high for potential home buyers. In the meantime, many will choose to rent," Nothaft said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.