Bernanke Sees Low Interest Rates Long After Bond Buying Ends

According to Bloomberg,

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the labor market has shown “meaningful improvement” since the start of the central bank’s bond-buying program and that the benchmark interest rate will probably stay low long after the purchases end.

“The target for the federal funds rate is likely to remain near zero for a considerable time after the asset purchases end, perhaps well after” the jobless rate falls below the Fed’s 6.5 percent threshold, Bernanke said today in a speech to economists in Washington. He said a “preponderance of data” would be needed to begin removing accommodation.

Fed officials will weigh both the “cumulative progress” since they began the third round of bond buying in September 2012 as well as “the prospect for continued gains” as they evaluate the outlook for the labor market, Bernanke said. While recent job reports have been “somewhat disappointing,” the unemployment rate has fallen 0.8 percentage point during the program and about 2.6 million payroll jobs have been added, he said.

Policy makers are debating how to slow the pace of asset purchases without causing a surge in interest rates that could jeopardize the more than four-year economic expansion. Central bankers have sought to convince investors that tapering the $85 billion monthly pace of bond purchases wouldn’t signal that an increase in the benchmark interest rate is any closer.

‘Progressed Sufficiently’

When the Fed does slow asset purchases, “it will likely be because the economy has progressed sufficiently” for central bankers to rely more on guidance about the outlook for the main interest rate, Bernanke said.

“He’s saying that they achieved improvement in labor market conditions, but they’re still uncertain whether that progress will be sustained without all their support,” said Laura Rosner, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas SA in New York and a former researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

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