WASHINGTON, May 8 (Reuters) - The following are highlights of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s testimony on the U.S. economic outlook to the Senate Budget Committee on Thursday.
Yellen’s prepared remarks to the committee were identical to comments she made to the congressional Joint Economic Committee in testimony on Wednesday.
“Monetary policy is not a panacea, but I think maintaining a policy of low interest rates has been helpful in a number of ways. It has helped to get housing back on track, helped the housing sector more broadly. House prices have risen, that helped the financial situation of many households. Low interest rates may be less of a factor in stimulating capital spending, but I think there are a number of sectors of the economy that have responded favorably to our policy of low interest rates. It has helped stimulate demand and job growth. It’s been helpful. Again, I would not say it’s a panacea.”
YELLEN ON FED‘S 2 PERCENT INFLATION OBJECTIVE:
”We’ve now had a long period since the early or mid-90s in which inflation has averaged 2 percent and, if you look at inflation expectations they run around 2 percent and they have been very stable and well-anchored, and they have not moved around when actual inflation on some temporary basis has diverged from 2 percent. And that is a huge asset to this country to have stable, well-anchored inflation expectations...
“I would not favor trying to raise our inflation objective above where it is.”
”I am not aware of anyone in the Federal Reserve who adheres to the notion that there is a permanent tradeoff between unemployment and inflation. We all recognize that inflation expectations matter, and can shift over time.
”All of us lived through the ‘70s where we saw that happen. None of us want to or would be willing to see that happen again.
“And it’s why in our statements we constantly reference the importance of inflation expectations and their stability, and the fact that they are anchored, in terms of describing our policy and how it will be conducted.”
“We all expect our balance sheet to gradually decline over time, after we regard it as appropriate to begin to tighten policy. We’ve not decided, and we’ll probably wait until we’re in the process of normalizing policy to decide just what our long-run balance sheet will be. But clearly it will be substantially lower than it is now and will take a period, a number of years. This could happen simply by ending our reinvestment policy at some point. If we do that and nothing more, it would probably take somewhere in the neighborhood of five to eight years to get it back to pre-crisis levels.”
“In thinking about what will happen to the deficits and the debt, it’s important to keep in mind that a stronger economy will be very good for the federal budget deficit. There will be stronger revenues coming in and a decline in social safety net spending and that will be an offset (to higher interest rates)... Yes, interest payments will go up, but I believe the larger piece of it is likely to be that a stronger economy will improve the budget.”
YELLEN ON FED‘S PLAN TO REDUCE BOND BUYING:
”What we need to see in order to follow that plan is continued improvement in the labor market and an overall pattern of growth that is sufficient to cause us to project continued improvement.
”Our objective is to make sure that the economy moves back to full employment or maximum employment, and we are making gradual progress....
”Whenever we meet we ask ourselves the question, ‘do we continue to believe that the economy is on a path that will take us toward our objective of reaching full employment or maximum employment?’ And we also think about inflation, which is running below our 2-percent objective and ask ourselves, ‘does incoming evidence suggest that inflation will also be moving back up to 2 percent over time?
”If the answer to those two questions is ‘yes,’ we will continue to reduce the pace of our asset purchases.
“Now, if the economy outlook were to change in such a way that we no longer felt the answer to those questions was ‘yes,’ then we would reconsider our plans.”
“Certainly I am in favor of that. We just lost two individuals who are very familiar with community banking: Governor Duke, who ran a community bank in Virginia and who had a lifetime of experience in community banking, and Governor Raskin, who has now moved to become deputy Treasury Secretary, who served as commissioner of banking in Maryland and got to know the community banks and the community bank regulatory issues very closely.”
“They made huge contributions and I would love to see a replacement.”
“There’s no question that they do feel that banking regulation has become more burdensome but I pledge that I will continue to work with my colleagues to do all that we can to make sure that we reduce the burdens on these community banks and do not in any way have a one size fits-all approach. I don’t think that would be appropriate.”
”Our objective in monetary policy is to continue to maintain an accommodative monetary policy for as long as necessary to see recovery of the labor market, to a state. It’s hard to know exactly how to characterize it quantitatively, but what the Federal Reserve now calls maximum employment, we used to call full employment and in many ways we are far from that.
And that is part of the reason why not only is there a shortage of jobs, but also, I think wages are rising as slowly as they are. Our mission is both to make sure that inflation moves back to our 2 percent objective, but also to want to foster continued recovery in the labor market to help Rhode Island and other places like it.”
“Of course the recovery of the housing sector is very important. To see that ongoing is important to our recovery and has been a very important factor in the downturn.”
Fiscal policy, while it has accomplished a very meaningful reduction in the budget deficit, as you pointed out has served as a drag on spending and aggregate demand in the economy and in a sense this has been part of the headwinds that the Federal Reserve has had to confront in designing our own monetary policy....Having a long-run sustainable fiscal policy, a debt to GDP path, that can be maintained over time does require changes, but it doesn’t require changes that would come into effect so quickly that it would impede the recovery....
I think probably all of you have had the same experience that I’ve had as you talk to business people around the country, and to households as well, who do talk about uncertainty surrounding fiscal policy and that crisis atmosphere along with other elements of regulation and uncertainty about the outlook, as something that has diminished their willingness to hire and invest.
Compiled by Ann Saphir, Elvina Nawaguna and Lisa Lambert