Fed's focus on jobs will not waver, officials say

Tue Sep 18, 2012 4:34pm EDT
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By Ann Saphir and Jonathan Spicer

ANN ARBOR, Mich./FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve will not waver from its aggressive policy stance when one of its two bond-buying programs expires at year end, and it is prepared to do even more to get Americans back to work, two Fed officials said on Tuesday.

The U.S. central bank, which last week launched a potentially massive policy-easing effort with no set end date, will closely watch the ailing labor market for meaningful signs of improvement, the Fed policymakers said.

In response to lackluster economic growth that has not been enough to drive the unemployment rate down from levels above 8 percent, the Fed headed deeper into uncharted policy territory with a third round of quantitative easing, or QE3.

William Dudley, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, said the economy needed a "nudge in the right direction," while Charles Evans, head of the Chicago Fed, predicted the central bank will keep buying assets at its current $85 billion-per-month pace into the new year.

"If the economy is weaker, we'll do more" asset purchases, said Dudley, a close ally of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and a key barometer of the thinking inside the central bank. "If the economy is stronger and we see a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market sooner, we'll end up doing less."

Dudley, addressing the Morris County Chamber of Commerce in New Jersey, added: "If you're trying to get a car moving that is stuck in the mud, you don't stop pushing the moment the wheels start turning - you keep pushing until the car is rolling and is clearly free."

Last week the Fed said it plans to buy $40 billion every month in mortgage-backed securities until the labor market outlook improves substantially.

The purchases come on top of an existing stimulus program in which the central bank buys about $45 billion a month in long-term Treasuries while selling the same amount of short-term Treasuries. That program, dubbed Operation Twist and designed to drive down long-term borrowing rates such as mortgages, runs through the end of 2012.   Continued...

A view shows the Federal Reserve building on the day it is scheduled to release minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee from August 1, 2012, in Washington August 22, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing