Ben S. Bernanke will be “one of the great chairmen” in the Federal Reserve’s 100-year history, former Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said, adding that winding down asset purchases could be difficult.
“It is a pretty tough thing getting out of quantitative easing,” Fischer said. “We will see how it goes. We are not sure it’s going to go ahead with it in September. It doesn’t matter hugely except to a few people who have positions they are holding.”
Fischer spoke in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Sara Eisen from the Fed’s annual monetary conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he will moderate a discussion. Fischer, 69, was Bernanke’s thesis adviser at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the Fed chairman obtained his Ph.D. in 1979.
The Federal Open Market Committee next meets Sept. 17 and 18. Some 65 percent of economists surveyed by Bloomberg this month expect the U.S. central bank to begin trimming its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases at that meeting.
The FOMC’s first step may be small, with monthly purchases tapered by $10 billion to a $75 billion pace, according to the median estimate in the survey of 48 economists conducted Aug. 9-13. The Fed will probably end the buying by mid-2014, the survey showed.
Fischer said the rush of money into emerging markets by investors seeking higher yields is just as much of a problem as the outflow caused by a move up in U.S. interest rates. The MSCI Emerging Markets stock index is down about 12 percent this year.
“Dealing with those inflows of capital is a real problem because it can cause the exchange rate to appreciate,” Fischer said. “A lot of countries, after a period of transition, will be very happy with the shift” to more normal capital flows.
Fischer added that Europe “is not out of the woods,” despite a quarter of growth, while crediting European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, another former student, for his “bold” defense of the euro.
“Mario has been doing it extremely well,” Fischer said. “He did make that one very brave, bold statement: We are not going to let the euro collapse.”
Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda and Bank of Mexico Governor Agustin Carstens are among the speakers at the three-day symposium held by the Kansas City Fed that began yesterday. The conference is titled: “Global Dimensions of Unconventional Monetary Policy.”
Bernanke, 59, isn’t attending the conference this year, the first Fed chairman to pass up the meeting since 1988.
Bernanke’s second term as chairman expires in January, and President Barack Obama is considering candidates to succeed him, including Vice Chairman Janet Yellen and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. Yellen will moderate tomorrow’s discussions.
“There have been a lot of calls for the president to make the decision and let the markets and the public know who it’s going to be and what that means,” Fischer said.
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