Fed's Fisher to Wall Street: QE3 is "fantasy"

SAN MARCOS, Texas Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:34am EST

SAN MARCOS, Texas (Reuters) - Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher had a message for Wall Street on Wednesday: don't expect more from the U.S. central bank.

Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street economists have for months predicted the U.S. central bank will embark on a third round of quantitative easing, or QE3, adding to purchases of long-term securities that have already pushed the Fed's balance sheet to nearly $3 trillion.

"There will be no QE3," Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher told reporters after a speech here. "I will support no QE3, no additional mortgage-backed securities, no additional Treasuries."

Fisher, the only current Fed policymaker who has managed money for a living, said the economy is doing better than the Fed had expected in January, when it eased policy further by signaling rates would stay low through late 2014.

"Wall Street keeps dangling QE3 out there," Fisher said. "I think it's a fantasy of Wall Street - it's not going to happen, it's not necessary."

The Fed has already taken easy monetary policy too far, he said, filling the policy "gas tank" too full.

Fisher laid the responsibility for healing the jobs market at the feet of Congress and the administration, who need to ease uncertainty over the tax code and regulation that is keeping businesses from hiring, he told the Texas Manufacturers Summit.

"No amount of monetary accommodation will change the pathology" of such uncertainty, Fisher said, reprising a theme he has come back to again and again over the last two years, even as the Fed has done ever more to push down borrowing costs.

"Indeed, excessive monetary accommodation might only add a further dosage of angst, because it will fuel fears of future inflation," he said.

Fisher has been a stalwart critic of easing, a self-described inflation hawk, more concerned with the threat that prices could rise uncontrollably than with the prospect of high unemployment.

The Fed last month said it would keep interest rates low until late 2014, almost 18 months longer than it had previously projected, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke left the door open to further monetary easing.

Since then, the economy has improved, Fisher said. Not sufficiently, he added, but leaving it in a state where rates need not be pushed any lower, barring deflation or some unanticipated shock.

The central bank has already kept interest rates low for more than three years, and bought $2.3 trillion in long-term securities to drive down borrowing costs further.

The unemployment rate has fallen in recent months, hitting 8.3 percent in January.

Meanwhile, inflation has eased, dropping to 0.7 percent by the Fed's preferred measure last quarter, well below the Fed's newly set 2-percent target.

Fed officials in recent weeks have nodded to stronger economic data, even as the divide between hawks and the Fed's "dovish" core appears as strong as ever.

Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser on Tuesday criticized the "accelerationist approach to monetary policy" of some of his colleagues, pointing to signs of economic improvement as reason enough for the U.S. central bank to stand pat on rates for now.

The comments, which step up Plosser's longstanding opposition to the Fed's ultra-easy policies, came less than a day after San Francisco Fed President John Williams said it "is vital that we keep the monetary policy throttle wide open" to reduce unemployment and bring inflation back up to more desirable levels.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota, in comments published on the regional Fed bank's website, said he sees current easy Fed policy as fueling an inflation rise to 2.3 percent next year, above the U.S. central bank's target.

Fisher said it was up to fiscal authorities to get long-term debt and deficits under control, or risk hurting long-term U.S. prosperity.

"If we are to heal the plight of the American worker, our fiscal authorities cannot count on the Federal Reserve to do the job only those authorities can do," he said.

(Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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