Fisher Says He Might Vote to Cut Short or Reduce Asset Purchase Program

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard W. Fisher said he might vote to cut short the central bank’s program of large-scale asset purchases if he believed it to be “counterproductive.”

“I remain doubtful enough as to its efficacy that if at any time between now and June, it should prove demonstrably counterproductive, I will vote to curtail or perhaps discontinue it,” Fisher said in the text of a speech today in Washington. Fisher repeated that he would vote against extending or enlarging the purchases “barring some frightful development.”

Central bankers, who next meet March 15, are about half way through their program to buy $600 billion in Treasury securities through June. Though Fisher has criticized the purchases as unlikely to help the economy, he supported its continuation at the Fed’s Jan. 25-26 meeting.

“The liquidity tanks are full, if not brimming over,” Fisher said at the Institute of International Bankers Annual Washington Conference. “The Fed has done its job. What is needed now is for business to be incentivized to commit that liquidity to creating American jobs. This is the task of the fiscal authorities, not the Federal Reserve.”

Joblessness in the U.S. unexpectedly fell to 8.9 percent in February, according to a March 4 report from the Labor Department. The rate fell for a third straight month to the lowest level in almost two years as employers boosted payrolls by 192,000 amid growing confidence in the economy.

Gaining Strength

“Though the recovery is gaining strength, we still have a long and arduous path ahead of us,” Fisher said. “The news is better; job creation is gathering momentum; the economy is moving in the right direction. But it is worrisomely clear that the task of putting millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans back to work will take an anguishing amount of time.”

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke last week told Congress that there are “grounds for optimism” on the labor market. Even so, 14.5 million Americans remain unemployed, and 44 percent of the jobless have been without work for more than half a year.

“I do not, however, feel that further monetary accommodation will speed the process,” Fisher said.

The Fed has bought $397.6 billion in Treasury securities since Nov. 12 under plans to purchase $600 billion of government debt through June and reinvest proceeds from maturing mortgage debt.

The program “might well retard job creation,” Fisher said, if it leads to rising inflation expectations or a perception that the Fed was enabling the “fiscal irresponsibility” of Congress.

Deficit Projections

This fiscal year’s budget deficit is projected to reach $1.5 trillion, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate released Jan. 26. The deficit was $1.29 trillion last year after a record $1.42 trillion in 2009.

“The U.S. economy is afflicted with the pathology of structural deficits,” Fisher said. “This leaves the nation poorly positioned to weather the next recession or shock to come our way. I devoutly hope our next downturn won’t come for quite some time, but it surely will come eventually.”

Fed presidents rotate voting on monetary policy, with Fisher, 61, voting this year. When Fisher last sat on the committee in 2008, he dissented five times in favor of tighter policy. He has led the Dallas Fed since 2005.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joshua Zumbrun in Washington at jzumbrun@bloomberg.net; Alex Kowalski in Washington at akowalski13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net

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