Printer Friendly

Statements to the Congress.

Statement by Patrick M. Parkinson, Associate Director, Division of Research and Statistics, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, before the Subcommittee on Finance and Hazardous Materials of the Committee on Commerce, U.S. House of Representatives, July 12, 2000

I am pleased to be here to present the Federal Reserve Board's views on the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (H.R. 4541). My testimony today will be quite similar to testimony that Chairman Greenspan and I presented last month to committees in the Senate and House respectively. The Board continues to believe that such legislation modernizing the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) is essential. To be sure, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has recently proposed issuing regulatory exemptions that would reduce legal uncertainty about the enforceability of over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives transactions and would conform the regulation of futures exchanges to the realities of today's marketplace. These administrative actions by no means obviate the need for legislation, however. The greatest legal uncertainty affecting OTC derivatives is in the area of securities-based transactions, to which the CFTC's exemptive authority does not extend. Furthermore, as events during the past few years have clearly demonstrated, regulatory exemptions carry the risk of amendment by future commissions. If our derivatives markets are to remain innovative and competitive internationally, they need the legal and regulatory certainty that only legislation can provide.

In my remarks today I shall focus on three of the areas that the legislation covers: (1) OTC derivatives, (2) regulatory relief for U.S. futures exchanges, and (3) repeal of the Shad-Johnson prohibition of single-stock futures.

OTC DERIVATIVES

In its November 1999 report, Over-the-Counter Derivatives and the Commodity Exchange Act, the President's Working Group on Financial Markets (PWG) concluded that OTC derivatives transactions should be subject to the CEA only if necessary to achieve the public policy objectives of the act--deterring market manipulation and protecting investors against fraud and other unfair practices. In the case of financial derivatives transactions involving professional counterparties, the PWG concluded that regulation was unnecessary for these purposes because financial derivatives generally are not readily susceptible to manipulation and because professional counterparties can protect themselves against fraud and unfair practices. Consequently, the PWG recommended that financial OTC derivatives transactions between professional counterparties be excluded from coverage of the CEA. Furthermore, it recommended that these transactions between professional counterparties be excluded even if they are executed through electronic trading systems. Finally, the PWG recommended that transactions that were otherwise excluded from the CEA should not fall within the ambit of the act simply because they are cleared. The PWG concluded that clearing should be subject to government oversight but that such oversight need not be provided by the CFTC. Instead, for many types of derivatives, oversight could be provided by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve, or a foreign financial regulator that the appropriate U.S. regulator determines to have satisfied its standards.

The provisions of H.R. 4541 that address OTC derivatives are generally consistent with the PWG's conclusions. At the margin, the provisions differ from those recommended by the PWG in terms of the range of counterparties covered by the exclusions. However, these differences reflect reasonable judgments regarding the types of counterparties that can protect themselves against fraud and unfair practices. Therefore, the Federal Reserve Board believes it would be appropriate to enact these provisions.

REGULATORY RELIEF FOR U.S. FUTURES EXCHANGES

The PWG did not make specific recommendations about the regulation of traditional exchange-traded futures markets that use open outcry trading or that allow trading by retail investors. Nevertheless, it called for the CFTC to review the existing regulatory structures, particularly those applicable to financial futures, to ensure that they remain appropriate in light of the objectives of the CEA. In February, the CFTC published a report by a staff task force that provided a comprehensive review of its regulatory framework and proposed sweeping changes to the existing regulatory structure. Last month the CFTC issued a revised set of proposals for public comment. With some exceptions, the regulatory relief provisions of H.R. 4541 are consistent with the CFTC's proposals.

Using the same approach as the PWG, the CFTC has evaluated the regulation of futures exchanges in light of the public policy objectives of deterring market manipulation and protecting investors. When contracts are not readily susceptible to manipulation and access to the exchange is limited to sophisticated counterparties, the CFTC has proposed alternative regulatory structures that would eliminate unnecessary regulatory burden and allow domestic exchanges to compete more effectively with exchanges abroad and with the OTC markets. More generally, the CFTC proposes to transform itself from a frontline regulator, promulgating relatively rigid rules for exchanges, to an oversight agency, assessing exchanges' compliance with more flexible core principles of regulation.

The Federal Reserve Board supports the general approach to regulation that was outlined in the CFTC's proposals. For some time the Board has been arguing that the regulatory framework for futures trading, which was designed for the trading of grain futures by the general public, is not appropriate for the trading of financial futures by large institutions. The CFTC's proposals recognize that the current "one-size-fits-all" approach to regulation of futures exchanges is inappropriate, and they generally incorporate sound judgments regarding the degree of regulation needed to achieve the CEA' s purposes.

Similarly, the Federal Reserve Board generally supports the regulatory relief provisions of H.R. 4541. However, the CFTC has expressed concerns that the bill unduly restricts its authority to correct violations of the core principles of regulation. To facilitate expeditious passage of legislation, it thus may be prudent to address the CFTC's concerns about its enforcement authority.

SINGLE-STOCK FUTURES

The PWG concluded that the current prohibition on single-stock futures (part of the Shad-Johnson Accord) can be repealed if issues about the integrity of the underlying securities markets and regulatory arbitrage are resolved. The Board believes that such instruments should be allowed to trade on futures exchanges or on securities exchanges, with primary regulatory authority assigned to the CFTC or the SEC respectively. However, the SEC should have authority over some aspects of trading of these products on futures exchanges. The scope of the SEC's authority can and should be resolved through negotiations between the CFTC and the SEC. The Congress should continue to urge the two agencies to settle their remaining differences. Whatever agreement they reach should then be incorporated through amendments to H.R. 4541. In any event, the bill should allow securities exchanges to compete with futures exchanges in listing single-stock futures.

If it would facilitate repeal of the prohibition, the Federal Reserve Board is willing to accept regulatory authority over levels of margin on single-stock futures, as provided in H.R. 4541, so long as the Board can delegate that authority to the CFTC, the SEC, or an Intermarket Margin Board consisting of representatives of the three agencies. The Board understands that the purpose of such authority would be to preserve the financial integrity of the contract market and thereby prevent systemic risk and to ensure that levels of margins on single-stock futures and options are consistent. The Board would note that, for purposes of preserving financial integrity and preventing systemic risk, margin levels on futures and options should be considered consistent, even if they are not identical, if they provide similar levels of protection against defaults by counterparties, taking into account any differences in (1) the price volatility of the contracts, (2) the frequency with which margin calls are made, or (3) the period of time within which margin calls must be met.

CONCLUSION

H.R. 4541 reflects a remarkable consensus on the need for legal certainty for OTC derivatives and regulatory relief for U.S. futures exchanges, issues that have long eluded resolution. These provisions are vitally important to the soundness and competitiveness of our derivatives markets in what is an increasingly integrated and intensely competitive global economy. The Federal Reserve Board trusts that the remaining differences regarding single-stock futures can be resolved quickly, so that this important piece of legislation can be expedited through this Congress.

Statement by Patrick M. Parkinson, Associate Director, Division of Research and Statistics, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, before the Committee on Banking and Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives, July 19, 2000

I am pleased to be here to present the Federal Reserve Board's views on the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (H.R. 4541). Much of my testimony today will repeat testimony that Chairman Greenspan and I have presented during the last few weeks to other committees in the Senate and the House.

The Board continues to believe that such legislation modernizing the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) is essential. To be sure, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has recently proposed issuing regulatory exemptions that would reduce legal uncertainty about the enforceability of over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives transactions and would conform the regulation of futures exchanges to the realities of today's marketplace. These administrative actions by no means obviate the need for legislation, however. The greatest legal uncertainty affecting OTC derivatives is in the area of securities-based transactions, to which the CFTC's exemptive authority does not extend. Furthermore, as events during the past few years have clearly demonstrated, regulatory exemptions carry the risk of amendment by future commissions. If our derivatives markets are to remain innovative and competitive internationally, they need the legal and regulatory certainty that only legislation can provide.

In my remarks today, I shall focus primarily on three of the areas that the legislation covers: (1) OTC derivatives, (2) regulatory relief for U.S. futures exchanges, and (3) repeal of the Shad-Johnson prohibition of single-stock futures. Before concluding, I shall also discuss the importance of legislation clarifying the treatment of derivatives and other financial contracts in bankruptcy.

OTC DERIVATIVES

In its November 1999 report, Over-the-Counter Derivatives and the Commodity Exchange Act, the President's Working Group on Financial Markets (PWG) concluded that OTC derivatives transactions should be subject to the CEA only if necessary to achieve the public policy objectives of the act-deterring Market manipulation and protecting investors against fraud and other unfair practices. In the case of financial derivatives transactions involving professional counterparties, the PWG concluded that regulation was unnecessary for these purposes because financial derivatives generally are not readily susceptible to manipulation and because professional counterparties can protect themselves against fraud and unfair practices. Consequently, the PWG recommended that financial OTC derivatives transactions between professional counterparties be excluded from coverage of the CEA. Furthermore, it recommended that these transactions between professional counterparties be excluded even if they are executed through electronic trading systems. Finally, the PWG recommended that transactions that were otherwise excluded from the CEA should not fall within the ambit of the act simply because they are cleared. The PWG concluded that clearing should be subject to government oversight but that such oversight need not be provided by the CFTC. Instead, for many types of derivatives, oversight could be provided by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve, or a foreign financial regulator that the appropriate U.S. regulator determines to have satisfied its standards.

The provisions of H.R. 4541 that address OTC derivatives are generally consistent with the PWG's conclusions. Therefore, the Federal Reserve Board believes it would be appropriate to enact these provisions. In addition, the Board recommends incorporating into the legislation provisions that would enhance the Federal Reserve's enforcement authority with respect to derivatives clearing organizations that seek to organize as uninsured state member banks. Provisions should also be added that would clarify how clearing organizations organized as uninsured state member banks or Edge Act corporations would be resolved in the event of their bankruptcy.

REGULATORY RELIEF FOR U.S. FUTURES EXCHANGES

The PWG did not make specific recommendations about the regulation of traditional exchange-traded futures markets that use open outcry trading or that allow trading by retail investors. Nevertheless, it called for the CFTC to review the existing regulatory structures, particularly those applicable to financial futures, to ensure that they remain appropriate in light of the objectives of the CEA. In February, the CFTC published a report by a staff task force that provided a comprehensive review of its regulatory framework and proposed sweeping changes to the existing regulatory structure. Last month, the CFTC issued a revised set of proposals for public comment. With some exceptions, the regulatory relief provisions of H.R. 4541 are consistent with the CFTC's proposals.

Using the same approach as the PWG, the CFTC has evaluated the regulation of futures exchanges in light of the public policy objectives of deterring market manipulation and protecting investors. When contracts are not readily susceptible to manipulation and access to the exchange is limited to sophisticated counterparties, the CFTC has proposed alternative regulatory structures that would eliminate unnecessary regulatory burden and allow domestic exchanges to compete more effectively with exchanges abroad and with the OTC markets. More generally, the CFTC proposes to transform itself from a frontline regulator, promulgating relatively rigid rules for exchanges, to an oversight agency, assessing exchanges' compliance with more flexible core principles of regulation.

The Federal Reserve Board supports the general approach to regulation that was outlined in the CFTC's proposals. For some time, the Board has been arguing that the regulatory framework for futures trading, which was designed for the trading of grain futures by the general public, is not appropriate for the trading of financial futures by large institutions. The CFTC's proposals recognize that the current "one-size-fits-all" approach to regulation of futures exchanges is inappropriate, and they generally incorporate sound judgments regarding the degree of regulation needed to achieve the CEA's purposes.

Similarly, the Federal Reserve Board generally supports the regulatory relief provisions of H.R. 4541. However, the CFTC has expressed concerns that the bill unduly restricts its authority to correct violations of the core principles of regulation. To facilitate expeditious passage of legislation, it thus may be prudent to address the CFTC's concerns about its enforcement authority.

SINGLE-STOCK FUTURES

The PWG concluded that the current prohibition on single-stock futures (part of the Shad-Johnson Accord) can be repealed if issues about the integrity of the underlying securities markets and regulatory arbitrage are resolved. The Board believes that such instruments should be allowed to trade on futures exchanges or on securities exchanges, with primary regulatory authority assigned to the CFTC or the SEC respectively. However, the SEC should have authority over some aspects of trading of these products on futures exchanges. The scope of the SEC's authority can and should be resolved through negotiations between the CFTC and the SEC. The Congress should continue to urge the two agencies to settle their remaining differences. Whatever agreement they reach should then be incorporated through amendments to H.R. 4541. In any event, the bill should allow securities exchanges to compete with futures exchanges in listing single-stock futures.

If it would facilitate repeal of the prohibition, the Federal Reserve Board is willing to accept regulatory authority over levels of margin on single-stock futures, as provided in H.R. 4541, so long as the Board can delegate that authority to the CFTC, the SEC, or an Intermarket Margin Board consisting of representatives of the three agencies. The Board understands that the purpose of such authority would be to preserve the financial integrity of the contract market and thereby prevent systemic risk and to ensure that levels of margins on single-stock futures and options are consistent. The Board would note that, for purposes of preserving financial integrity and preventing systemic risk, margin levels on futures and options should be considered consistent, even if they are not identical, if they provide similar levels of protection against defaults by counterparties, taking into account any differences in (1) the price volatility of the contracts, (2) the frequency with which margin calls are made, or (3) the period of time within which margin calls must be met.

FINANCIAL NETTING LEGISLATION

The Federal Reserve Board continues to support the working group's recommendations for amendments to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to support financial contract netting. Enactment of those amendments, which this committee has introduced as H.R. 1161, would reduce uncertainty for market participants about the disposition of their financial market contracts in the event one of the counterparties becomes insolvent. This reduced uncertainty should limit market disruptions in the event of an insolvency, limit risk to federally supervised market participants, including insured depositories, and limit systemic risk. The Board urges this committee to amend H.R. 4541 to include the financial contract netting provisions of H.R. 1161.

CONCLUSION

H.R. 4541 reflects a remarkable consensus on the need for legal certainty for OTC derivatives and regulatory relief for U.S. futures exchanges, issues that have long eluded resolution. Likewise, the working group's recommendations for amendments to the Bankruptcy Code are the product of several years of consensus building. These provisions are vitally important to the soundness and competitiveness of our derivatives markets in what is an increasingly integrated and intensely competitive global economy. The Federal Reserve Board trusts that the remaining differences regarding single-stock futures can be resolved quickly. However, if those differences cannot be resolved, that should not be allowed to hold up passage by this Congress of these other critical provisions.

Statement by Alan Greenspan, Chairman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senate, July 20, 2000 (Chairman Greenspan presented identical testimony before the Committee on Banking and Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives, July 25, 2000.)

I appreciate this opportunity to present the Federal Reserve's report on monetary policy.

The Federal Reserve has been confronting a complex set of challenges in judging the stance of policy that will best contribute to sustaining the strong and long-running expansion of our economy. The challenges will be no less in coming months as we judge whether ongoing adjustments in supply and demand will be sufficient to prevent distortions that would undermine the economy's extraordinary performance.

For some time now, the growth of aggregate demand has exceeded the expansion of production potential. Technological innovations have boosted the growth rate of potential, but as I noted in my testimony last February, the effects of this process also have spurred aggregate demand. It has been clear to us that, with labor markets already quite tight, a continuing disparity between the growth of demand and potential supply would produce disruptive imbalances.

A key element in this disparity has been the very rapid growth of consumption resulting from the effects on spending of the remarkable rise in household wealth. However, the growth in household spending has slowed noticeably this spring from the unusually rapid pace observed late in 1999 and early this year. Some argue that this slowing is a pause following the surge in demand through the warmer-than-normal winter months and hence a reacceleration can be expected later this year. Certainly, we have seen slowdowns in spending during this near-decade-long expansion that have proven temporary, with aggregate demand growth subsequently rebounding to an unsustainable pace.

But other analysts point to a number of factors that may be exerting more persistent restraint on spending. One they cite is the flattening in equity prices, on net, this year. They attribute much of the slowing of consumer spending to this diminution of the wealth effect through the spring and early summer. This view looks to equity markets as a key influence on the trend in consumer spending over the rest of this year and next.

Another factor said by some to account for the spending slowdown is the rising debt burden of households. Interest and amortization as a percent of disposable income have risen materially during the past six years, as consumer and especially mortgage debt has climbed and, more recently, as interest rates have moved higher.

In addition, the past year's rise in the price of oil has amounted to an annual $75 billion levy by foreign producers on domestic consumers of imported oil, the equivalent of a tax of roughly 1 percent of disposable income. This burden is another likely source of the slowed growth in real consumption outlays in recent months, though one that may prove to be largely transitory.

Mentioned less prominently have been the effects of the faster increase in the stock of consumer durable assets--both household durable goods and houses--in the last several years, a rate of increase that history tells us is usually followed by a pause. Stocks of household durable goods, including motor vehicles, are estimated to have increased at nearly a 6 percent annual rate over the past three years, a marked acceleration from the growth rate of the previous ten years. The number of cars and light trucks owned or leased by households, for example, apparently has continued to rise in recent years despite having reached nearly 1 3/4 vehicles per household by the mid-1990s. Notwithstanding their recent slowing, sales of new homes continue at extraordinarily high levels relative to new household formations. While we will not know for sure until the 2000 census is tabulated, the surge in new home sales is strong evidence that the growth of owner-occupied homes has accelerated during the past five years.

Those who focus on the high and rising stocks of durable assets point out that even without the rise in interest rates, an eventual leveling out or some tapering off of purchases of durable goods and construction of single-family housing would be expected. Reflecting both higher interest rates and higher stocks of housing, starts of new housing units have fallen off of late. If that slowing were to persist, some reduction in the rapid pace of accumulation of household appliances across our more than a hundred million households would not come as a surprise, nor would a slowdown in vehicle demand so often historically associated with declines in housing demand.

Inventories of durable assets in households are just as formidable a factor in new production as inventories at manufacturing and trade establishments. The notion that consumer spending and housing construction may be slowing because the stock of consumer durables and houses may be running into upside resistance is a credible addition to the possible explanations of current consumer trends. This effect on spending would be reinforced by the waning effects of gains in wealth.

Because the softness in outlay growth is so recent, all of the aforementioned hypotheses, of course, must be provisional. It is certainly premature to make a definitive assessment of either the recent trends in household spending or what they mean. But it is clear that, for the time being at least, the increase in spending on consumer goods and houses has come down several notches, albeit from very high levels.

In one sense, the more important question for the longer-term economic outlook is the extent of any productivity slowdown that might accompany a more subdued pace of production and consumer spending, should it persist. The behavior of productivity under such circumstances will be a revealing test of just how much of the rapid growth of productivity in recent years has represented structural change as distinct from cyclical aberrations and, hence, how truly different the developments of the past five years have been. At issue is how much of the current downshift in our overall economic growth rate can be accounted for by reduced growth in output per hour and how much by slowed increases in hours.

So far there is little evidence to undermine the notion that most of the productivity increase of recent years has been structural and that structural productivity may still be accelerating. New orders for capital equipment continue quite strong--so strong that the rise in unfilled orders has actually steepened in recent months. Capital-deepening investment in a broad range of equipment embodying the newer productivity-enhancing technologies remains brisk.

To be sure, if current personal consumption outlays slow significantly further than the pattern now in train suggests, profit and sales expectations might be scaled back, possibly inducing some hesitancy in moving forward even with capital projects that appear quite profitable over the longer mn. In addition, the direct negative effects of the sharp recent mn-up in energy prices on profits as well as on sales expectations may temporarily damp capital spending. Despite the marked decline over the past decades in the energy requirements per dollar of GDP, energy inputs are still a significant element in the cost structure of many American businesses.

For the moment, the drop-off in overall economic growth to date appears about matched by reduced growth in hours, suggesting continued strength in growth in output per hour. The increase of production worker hours from March through June, for example, was at an annual rate of 1/2 percent compared with 3 1/4 percent the previous three months. Of course, we do not have comprehensive measures of output on a monthly basis, but available data suggest a roughly comparable deceleration.

A lower overall rate of economic growth that did not carry with it a significant deterioration in productivity growth obviously would be a desirable outcome. It could conceivably slow or even bring to a halt the deterioration in the balance of overall demand and potential supply in our economy.

As I testified before this committee in February, domestic demand growth, influenced importantly by the wealth effect on consumer spending, has been running 1 1/2 to 2 percentage points at an annual rate in excess of even the higher, productivity-driven, growth in potential supply since late 1997. That gap has been filled both by a marked rise in imports as a percent of GDP and by a marked increase in domestic production resulting both from significant immigration and from the employment of previously unutilized labor resources.

I also pointed out in February that there are limits to how far net imports---or the broader measure, our current account deficit--can rise, or our pool of unemployed labor resources can fall. As a consequence, the excess of the growth of domestic demand over potential supply must be closed before the resulting strains and imbalances undermine the economic expansion that now has reached 112 months, a record for peace or war.

The current account deficit is a proxy for the increase in net claims against U.S. residents held by foreigners, mainly as debt, but increasingly as equities. So long as foreigners continue to seek to hold ever-increasing quantities of dollar investments in their portfolios, as they obviously have been, the exchange rate for the dollar will remain firm. Indeed, the same sharp rise in potential rates of return on new American investments that has been driving capital accumulation and accelerating productivity in the United States has also been inducing foreigners to expand their portfolios of American securities and direct investment. The latest data published by the Department of Commerce indicate that the annual pace of direct plus portfolio investment by foreigners in the U.S. economy during the first quarter was more than two and one-half times its rate in 1995.

There has to be a limit as to how much of the world's savings our residents can borrow at close to prevailing interest and exchange rates. And a narrowing of disparities among global growth rates could induce a narrowing of rates of return here relative to those abroad that could adversely affect the propensity of foreigners to invest in the United States. But obviously, so long as our rates of return appear to be unusually high, if not rising, balance of payments trends are less likely to pose a threat to our prosperity. In addition, our burgeoning budget surpluses have clearly contributed to a fending off, if only temporarily, of some of the pressures on our balance of payments. The stresses on the global savings pool resulting from the excess of domestic private investment demands over domestic private saving have been mitigated by the large federal budget surpluses that have developed of late.

In addition, by substantially augmenting national saving, these budget surpluses have kept real interest rates at levels lower than they would have been otherwise. This development has helped foster the investment boom that in recent years has contributed greatly to the strengthening of U.S. productivity and economic growth. The Congress and the Administration have wisely avoided steps that would materially reduce these budget surpluses. Continued fiscal discipline will contribute tO maintaining robust expansion of the American economy in the future.

Just as there is a limit to our reliance on foreign saving, so is there a limit to the continuing drain on our unused labor resources. Despite the evertightening labor market, as yet, gains in compensation per hour are not significantly outstripping gains in productivity. But as I have argued previously, should labor markets continue to tighten, short of a repeal of the law of supply and demand, labor costs eventually would have to accelerate to levels threatening price stability and our continuing economic expansion.

The more modest pace of increase in domestic final spending in recent months suggests that aggregate demand may be moving closer into line with the rate of advance in the economy's potential, given our continued impressive productivity growth. Should these trends toward supply and demand balance persist, the ongoing need for ever-rising imports and for a further draining of our limited labor resources should ease or perhaps even end. Should this favorable outcome prevail, the immediate threat to our prosperity from growing imbalances in our economy would abate.

But as I indicated earlier, it is much too soon to conclude that these concerns are behind us. We cannot yet be sure that the slower expansion of domestic final demand, at a pace more in line with potential supply, will persist. Even if the growth rates of demand and potential supply move into better balance, there is still uncertainty about whether the current level of labor resource utilization can be maintained without generating increased cost and price pressures. As I have already noted, to date, costs have been held in check by productivity gains. But at the same time, inflation has picked up--even the core measures that do not include energy prices directly. Higher rates of core inflation may mostly reflect the indirect effects of energy prices, but the Federal Reserve will need to be alert to the risks that high levels of resource utilization may put upward pressure on inflation.

Moreover, energy prices may pose a challenge to containing inflation. Energy price changes represent a one-time shift in a set of important prices, but by themselves generally cannot drive an ongoing inflation process. The key to whether such a process could get under way is inflation expectations. To date, survey evidence, as well as readings from the Treasury's inflation-indexed securities, suggests that households and investors do not view the current energy price surge as affecting longer-term inflation. But any deterioration in such expectations would pose a risk to the economic outlook.

As the financing requirements for our ever-rising capital investment needs mounted in recent years-beyond forthcoming domestic saving--real long-term interest rates rose to address this gap. We at the Federal Reserve, responding to the same economic forces, have moved the overnight federal funds rate up 1 3/4 percentage points over the past year. To have held to the federal funds rate of June 1999 would have required a massive increase in liquidity that would presumably have underwritten an acceleration of prices and, hence, an eventual curbing of economic growth.

By our meeting this June, the appraisal of all the foregoing issues led the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to conclude that, while some signs of slower growth were evident and justified standing pat at least for the time being, they were not sufficiently compelling to alter our view that the risks remained more on the side of higher inflation.

As indicated in their forecasts, FOMC members and nonvoting presidents expect that the long period of continuous economic expansion will be extended over the next year and one-half, but with growth at a somewhat slower pace than over the past several years. For the current year, the central tendency of Board members' and Reserve Bank presidents' forecasts is for real GDP to increase 4 percent to 4 1/2 percent, suggesting a noticeable deceleration over the second half of 2000 from its likely pace over the first half. The unemployment rate is projected to remain close to 4 percent. This outlook is a little stronger than anticipated last February, no doubt owing primarily to the unexpectedly strong jump in output in the first quarter. Mainly reflecting higher prices of energy products than had been foreseen, the central tendency for inflation this year in prices for personal consumption expenditures also has been revised up somewhat, to the vicinity of 2 1/2 percent to 2 3/4 percent.

Given the firmer financial conditions that have developed over the past eighteen months, the Committee expects economic growth to moderate somewhat next year. Real output is anticipated to expand 3 1/4 percent to 3 3/4 percent, somewhat less rapidly than in recent years. The unemployment rate is likely to remain close to its recent very low levels. Energy prices could ease somewhat, helping to trim PCE inflation next year to around 2 percent to 2 1/2 percent, somewhat above the average of recent years.

CONCLUSION

The last decade has been a remarkable period of expansion for our economy. Federal Reserve policy through this period has been required to react to a constantly evolving set of economic forces, often at variance with historical relationships, changing federal funds rates when events appeared to threaten our prosperity, and refraining from action when that appeared warranted. Early in the expansion, for example, we kept rates unusually low for an extended period, when financial sector fragility held back the economy. Most recently we have needed to raise rates to relatively high levels in real terms in response to the side effects of accelerating growth and related demand-supply imbalances. Variations in the stance of policy--or keeping it the same--in response to evolving forces are made in the framework of an unchanging objective--to foster as best we can those financial conditions most likely to promote sustained economic expansion at the highest rate possible. Maximum sustainable growth, as history so amply demonstrates, requires price stability. Irrespective of the complexities of economic change, our primary goal is to find those policies that best contribute to a non-inflationary environment and hence to growth. The Federal Reserve, I trust, will always remain vigilant in pursuit of that goal.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Federal Reserve Bulletin
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2000
Words:5782
Previous Article:Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization for July 2000.
Next Article:PUBLIC HEARINGS SCHEDULED ON PREDATORY PRACTICES IN HOME EQUITY LENDING MARKET.
Topics:


Related Articles
Statements to Congress.
Statements to the Congress.
Statements to the Congress.
Statement by Susan M. Phillips.
Statements to the Congress.
Statement by Richard Spillenkothen.
Statements to the Congress.
Statements to the Congress.
Statements to the Congress.
Statements to the Congress.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters