The Fed since June has been buying $120 billion in bonds each month to keep downward pressure on long-term interest rates as a way of giving the economy a boost as it struggles to emerge from a deep recession.
The purchases have included $80 billion a month in Treasury bonds and $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities.
With the economy showing signs of slowing in the face a resurgence in coronavirus cases and a return to shutdowns in some areas, there has been market speculation that the Fed could decide to boost the size of its monthly purchases.
The minutes show that while no decision was taken on what to do or when, Fed officials were keeping their options open. Some analysts believe the Fed will make an announcement on boosting the bond purchase program at its next meeting on Dec. 15-16, especially if there has been no movement by Congress to provide more economic relief to individuals and businesses.
The minutes said that many Fed officials “judged that asset purchases helped provide insurance against risks that might reemerge in financial markets in an environment of high uncertainty.”
Concern has been growing among economists that the economy is slowing after an initial rebound this summer and could even topple into a double-dip recession in the early part of 2021 if Congress does not replenish expiring support programs.
At the White House Wednesday, Peter Navarro, one of President Donald Trump’s economic advisers, told reporters that a “sober” reading of the economic recovery shows “we are facing … a chasm ahead for millions of Americans unless there can be a bipartisan” deal to provide further economic relief.
The minutes released Wednesday covered the Fed’s Nov. 4-5 meeting, held just after the November elections, and were released with the customary lag of three weeks.
At the meeting, the central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low near zero and signalled that it was prepared to do more if needed to support the economy.
A multitrillion-dollar stimulus effort enacted in the spring has helped support millions of Americans who have been thrown out of work and provided further assistance to struggling individuals and businesses.
But many of those programs have expired and jobless benefits are due to run out for millions of Americans by the end of this year.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell had said at a news conference following the two-day meeting that Fed officials had discussed whether and how a bond buying program might be altered to provide more economic support.
In addition to increasing the size of the program, the Fed could decide to alter the composition of the bonds purchases to focus on buying long-term securities as a way of putting added downward pressure on long-term rates.
Source: – Investment Executive
The U.S. economy likely grew 4.1% at the end of 2020, but GDP seen masking weakness in some sectors – MarketWatch
The U.S. economy may have grown about 4% in the final three months of 2020, a great showing even in the best of times.
These are not the best of times.
The economy still has lots of ground to make up, for one thing, after the deepest recession on record. And growth slackened off toward the end of 2020 after the coronavirus pandemic roared back and caseloads reached a record high, pointing to a loss of momentum in the economy early in the near year.
The U.S. fourth-quarter report on gross domestic product, due on Thursday, will still offer a useful diagnosis of the economy. It will tell us which parts have mostly recovered and which are still ailing.
economists polled by the Dow Jones/The Wall Street Journal predict a 4.1% increase in fourth-quarter GDP on an annualized basis. While that would mark a steep drop from the 33.4% increase in the third quarter, it still shows the economy forging ahead even as the coronavirus pandemic spiked again.
The details are unlikely to look quite as good.
The biggest component of the U.S. economy, consumer spending, almost certainly softened to mediocre 3% growth or less. Most government aid for the economy had faded away by the start of the quarter and businesses facing new government restrictions laid off more workers at the end of the year.
Business investment in structures such as oil rigs or office buildings was also weak.
Other drags on the economy included lower state and local spending and a bigger international trade deficit.
The economy got some sizzle from a surprising boom in the housing market. Low mortgages rates and people seeking more space outside the cities have lifted sales of previously existing homes to a 14-year high.
Businesses also started to rebuild their inventories — goods for future sale, that is — after letting them draw down early in the pandemic. That’s a good sign for 2021 since it suggests companies are expecting stronger sales.
Indeed, a pair of surveys of business executives in January suggest companies are banking on a better 2021, mostly because of rollout of coronavirus vaccines.
How soon the vaccinations levels are high enough to really help the economy, however, is still an open question.
“We only expect vaccination rates to be high enough to accelerate the economic recovery from mid-2021 onward,” said Cailin Birch, global economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit.
The promise of more federal financial aid from the Biden White House is also adding to the optimism, but the stimulus could take awhile to reach households and businesses. It’s also unclear how much aid Congress will approve.
What could also help the economy after a rocky start in the new year is rising consumer confidence. Americans historically spend more when they are confident and push the economy to greater heights.
A pair of surveys this coming week, consumer confidence and consumer sentiment, will give another glimpse into whether the hopes inspired by the vaccines are outweighing the angst caused by the record number of coronavirus cases.
Biden Seeks to Juice Economy as Congress Spars Over Stimulus – BNN
(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden is discovering the limits of his power to boost the world’s largest economy on his own, as congressional opposition to his sweeping stimulus plan hardened soon after he was inaugurated.
While publicly urging Congress to swiftly pass his $1.9 trillion proposal — warning of rising unemployment, hunger and homelessness if lawmakers don’t act — Biden issued more than a dozen executive actions in his first three days in office, some aimed at propping up the economy and containing the coronavirus to allow its reopening.
While moderate Republicans including Susan Collins of Maine see little need for a big new spending bill after last month’s dose, Biden’s making the case that the crisis is deepening, not fading, and urgent action is needed. But top Biden aides acknowledge that unilateral action can only accomplish so much.
“If we don’t act now, we will be in a much worse place, and we will find ourselves needing to do much more to dig out of a much deeper hole,” Biden’s top economic adviser, Brian Deese, said of the stimulus plan at a press briefing on Friday.
Record Covid-19 death tolls and renewed lockdowns have battered the economy this winter. A government report for December on Friday is expected to show the worst back-to-back monthly declines in personal spending since the dark days of last spring. And while U.S. stocks hit record highs the past week, some of that optimism has been based on assumptions of new stimulus getting passed.
Biden’s executive actions can at least signal his intentions, but he’ll need cooperation from Congress to validate financial markets’ confidence and make a real difference for the economy and the 11 million unemployed Americans. The legislature’s sign-off is required for the scale of spending needed to notably boost growth.
Biden signed two orders on Friday that expand food stamp benefits for low-income families, direct the Treasury Department to ensure Americans eligible for stimulus checks received them and reinstate protections and collective bargaining rights for federal workers. Next week, he’s expected to sign additional actions urging federal agencies to buy goods and services from U.S. companies, directing regulatory action to fight climate change and strengthening Medicaid.
“It is perfectly reasonable and necessary to start with a strong statement of intent from the administration, and it sounds like that is how they will use the executive orders — as ammunition in the battles to come,” said Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning thinktank.
“But when we talk about the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package or the big investments in infrastructure, climate change or the ‘care economy,’ those are things that will need the finance and power of the U.S. Congress to succeed,” she said.
Biden’s plan has so far sparked little enthusiasm from congressional Republicans. They have complained his first legislative proposal is too expensive, not targeted enough or is too much of a laundry list of liberal goals, including a minimum wage increase.
Not a single Republican has indicated support for Biden’s stimulus plan as presented, with Senators Mitt Romney, Chuck Grassley and Collins questioning the urgency since the government is still enacting a $900 billion stimulus from December.
“It’s hard for me to see, when we just passed $900 billion of assistance, why we would have a package that big,” Collins said this week about Biden’s proposal. “I’m not seeing it right now, but again, I’m happy to listen.”
Parts of the plan could get traction, however. Republican Senator Todd Young of Indiana called the total package a “non-starter, but it’s something that we will scrutinize and hopefully, find some common ground on.”
He said he might support a proposal to add funding for coronavirus vaccinations, as an example, and said he and Vice President Kamala Harris had spoken about finding a compromise.
The Biden team has said it would prefer to pass the relief package with Republican votes. Deese is scheduled to speak with a bipartisan group of senators on Sunday at 3 p.m. Biden is making his own calls to lawmakers, though the White House has declined to specify with whom he’s speaking.
During her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen defended Biden’s proposal against Republicans who raised concerns about the deficit — an issue that practically evaporated in Washington while Donald Trump was president.
She said Congress needs to “act big” to revive the economy.
“Right now, short term, I feel that we can afford what it takes to get the economy back on its feet, to get us through the pandemic,” Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee, highlighting that interest rates are historically low and that debt-servicing payments as a share of the economy are lower today than before the 2008 financial crisis.
She said doing too little to sustain the economy now could lead to “scarring.”
Presidents Barack Obama and Trump both made liberal use of executive orders and other actions to make policy, particularly when the opposing party controlled a chamber of Congress.
“Executive orders are the trend. It began almost 30 years ago, and they are becoming more and more the practice because Congress has been unable and unwilling to address these challenges through statute,” said former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
Daschle said Biden has no choice but to use the executive-authority tools: “He has an ambitious agenda.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Three ways Alberta can refocus its economy after Keystone's cancellation – The Globe and Mail
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