Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland President Sandra Pianalto said the central bank’s program to purchase $40 billion a month of mortgage-backed securities may have limited impact on the economy.
“It is possible that these purchases will yield somewhat smaller interest-rate declines and may not stimulate economic activity as much as past large-scale asset purchase programs,” Pianalto said in a speech today in Oxford, Ohio.
Policy makers led by Chairman Ben S. Bernanke are seeking to boost growth and lower a jobless rate stuck above 8 percent since February 2009. Pianalto supported the FOMC’s Sept. 13 statement that economic conditions would probably warrant holding the Fed’s target interest rate near zero through at least mid-2015 and that monetary stimulus will remain appropriate for a “considerable time” after growth strengthens.
The program “should put some downward pressure on home mortgage rates,” Pianalto said. “These lower rates should provide further support for the housing sector by encouraging home purchases and refinancing.”
The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.49 percent in the week ended today from 3.55 percent, Freddie Mac said in a statement. It matched a record reached in July. The average 15-year rate slid to 2.77 percent from 2.85 percent, a new low, according to the McLean, Virginia-based company.
Most stocks fell today after a report showing that more Americans than forecast filed claims for unemployment benefits added to concerns that the global economy is cooling. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined less than 0.1 percent to 1,460.26 at close of trading in New York.
Pianalto said that commodities and U.S. exchange rates are not a target of the Fed’s policies.
“Oil prices and the dollar are prices that are set by markets,” Pianalto said in response to audience questions. “And monetary policy and actions influence them but there are many other factors that influence them. When we are setting policy we don’t ask what will happen to the dollar or oil prices. We have two objectives from congress: Price stability and maximum employment.”
Crude oil for October delivery fell 11 cents today to $91.87 a barrel, extending its weekly loss to 7.2 percent.
“Our economic recovery has been frustratingly slow,” Pianalto said. “We have not returned to the level of economic activity we want or need to create sustained job growth in the United States.”
The Fed took action last week after a Sept. 7 report from the Labor Department showed the economy added 96,000 jobs in August after a gain of 141,000 the prior month. The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent after 368,000 people dropped out of the labor force.
Data today also showed signs of weakness in the economy. More Americans than forecast filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits, according to a Labor Department report. The New York-based Conference Board’s gauge of leading economic indicators fell 0.1 percent after a 0.5 percent increase in July.
“The connection between monetary policy and job creation is not straightforward,” Pianalto said. “While our monetary policy actions can make a contribution, a more robust recovery requires resolving problems that are beyond the control of monetary policy, including addressing our country’s fiscal challenges and the situation in Europe.”
Fed Presidents rotate voting on monetary policy. As Cleveland Fed President, Pianalto, 58, votes every other year. She is the longest-serving regional bank president, having led her regional bank since 2003.
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