Yellen says imperative Fed promotes very strong recovery

Thu Nov 14, 2013 1:27pm EST
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By Alister Bull and Jonathan Spicer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Janet Yellen on Thursday robustly defended the Federal Reserve's bold steps to spur economic growth, calling efforts to boost hiring an "imperative" at a hearing into her nomination to become the first woman to lead the U.S. central bank.

Answering questions before the Senate Banking Committee, Yellen made plain she would press forward with the Fed's ultra-easy monetary policy until officials were confident a durable economic recovery was in place that could sustain job creation.

"I consider it imperative that we do what we can to promote a very strong recovery," Yellen, currently the Fed's vice chair, told the panel.

If confirmed by the Senate, as widely expected, the former professor and long-time public servant will become the most powerful woman in the history of world finance.

Yellen said the central bank's bond buying, which some Republican lawmakers fear risks stoking inflation or asset bubbles, could not continue forever, emphasizing that the Fed was acutely aware the program had costs as well as benefits.

But she said the benefits outweighed the costs right now, and made clear any decision to reduce the current $85 billion per month purchase pace would be driven by economic data.

"I do not see the program as continuing indefinitely," Yellen said. "We ... are attempting to assess whether or not we have seen meaningful progress in the labor market. And what the (Fed's policy) committee is looking for is signs we will have growth that is strong enough to promote continued progress."

The Fed has held interest rates near zero since late 2008 and has quadrupled its balance sheet to $3.8 trillion through three massive rounds of bond purchases.   Continued...

Janet Yellen, President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the U.S. Federal Reserve, is pictured at her U.S. Senate Banking Committee confirmation hearing in Washington November 14, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed