Fed's Yellen says Europe, housing strains stifling U.S. recovery

WASHINGTON Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:34am EDT

Janet Yellen, Vice Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, attends a program of seminars of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank annual meetings in Tokyo October 10, 2012. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Janet Yellen, Vice Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, attends a program of seminars of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank annual meetings in Tokyo October 10, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. economic recovery continues to be hampered by spillover effects of the European crisis and a downtrodden housing market, Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen said on Thursday.

Yellen, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's influential no. 2 at the central bank's board, said the world's major economies were all slow to mend from the massive shock of the financial crisis and recession of 2007-2009.

"Their performance is even more anemic than we would have expected," Yellen said in prepared remarks to a panel sponsored by the International Monetary Fund, which is having a meeting in Tokyo this week.

"This shortfall likely reflects the unusually limited scope for fiscal stimulus at present, which very accommodative monetary policies have not been able to fully offset."

The Fed last month launched a third round of unconventional monetary stimulus, announcing an open-ended program of bond purchases aimed at supporting a still-fragile economy, which expanded at a paltry 1.3 percent annual rate in the second quarter.

The central bank has committed to buy some $40 billion per month of mortgage-backed debt, and said it will continue to make asset purchases until it sees substantial improvement in the labor market.

Yellen, who is seen as a strong supporter of the Fed's unconventional monetary policies, blamed Europe's troubles for some of the recent weakness in U.S. economic performance. She also noted emerging Asian economies had also begun to slow as exports to rich countries wane.

"Spillovers from Europe and a still-depressed housing market also help account for our tepid recovery and elevated unemployment," Yellen said.

U.S. unemployment fell sharply to 7.8 percent in September from 8.1 percent in August, but analysts say growth is not strong enough for the improvement to be sustained.

Yellen said Asian economies could benefit from a deeper structural shift that would see a move away from their emphasis on export-led growth toward a model that is more reliant on domestic demand.

As for Japan, Yellen said high debt levels, slow growth and an aging population posed threats to the country's long-term fiscal sustainability. But she argued that, like in the United States, low government borrowing costs suggested there was room for long-term budget shifts that do not threaten growth in the near future.

(Editing by Diane Craft)

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