August 24, 2008 / 4:47 AM / 11 years ago

ECB's Trichet says still in market correction

JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming (Reuters) - European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet on Saturday defended central bank responses to the financial turmoil that has roiled global markets for the past year and warned the storm is not over.

Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank (ECB) addresses the media during his monthly news conference at the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, August 7, 2008. REUTERS/Alex Grimm

“We still are in a market correction,” Trichet said at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank’s annual monetary policy conference that draws central bankers, economists and business people from around the world.

“What has been done until now has been pretty well done, it seems to me, under those very difficult circumstances,” he said, responding from the conference audience to a paper critical of the reactions of the U.S. Federal Reserve, the ECB and the Bank of England to financial turbulence.

The annual conference took place as market and economic conditions remain gloomy amid persistent worries about bad credit, inflation, sluggish growth and high energy and commodity prices.

“This turmoil is not going to go away quickly and will require serious efforts to overcome it,” a top official of the International Monetary Fund, John Lipsky, told Reuters.

The forum has focused on fallout from the financial crisis that erupted in 2007. In the conference keynote address on Friday, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the year-long financial storm “has not yet subsided.”

The U.S. economy may hit another bump in the final months of the year as the boost to spending from the government’s $152 billion stimulus package wears off, a congressional budget official said on Saturday.

“The stimulus helped to support consumption in the middle part of this year,” Congressional Budget Office head Peter Orszag told Reuters. “One of the things we’ll be experiencing later this year is the withdrawal of that effect, leading to economic weakness.”

Initial U.S. government data reported last month showed the economy grew by an annual rate of 1.9 percent in the second quarter, after meager growth of 0.9 percent in the first quarter.

At the symposium, a former Bank of England official, Willem Buiter, took the BoE, the ECB and the Fed to task for their responses to the crises that began last summer as the extent of problems resulting from risky subprime mortgages — loans made to borrowers with spotty records of repaying debts — became known.

Buiter in a paper presented at the symposium directed his harshest critique at the Fed, saying the U.S. central bank’s steep interest rate cuts to counter the crisis would lead to higher inflation. The Fed misjudged the effects of the housing contraction and overreacted by bringing benchmark rates down by 3.25 percentage points to the current 2 percent level, said Buiter, now a professor at the London School of Economics.

Fed Governor Frederic Mishkin, however, said the U.S. central bank’s bold moves were justified to stop a vicious circle of shrinking credit and weakening economic activity.

“When you can get an adverse feedback loop ... that argues that what you need to do is act more aggressively,” he said in response.

U.S. inflation hit a 17-year high in July of 5.6 percent, driven by higher energy and food prices. Oil prices have declined since mid-July.

The ECB, in contrast to the Fed, has raised rates, citing worries about record euro zone inflation.

A European policy-maker said at the Fed conference it was premature to declare that falling oil prices would curb euro zone inflation.

“We will have to see where it will go. It is too early to give a comment on that,” ECB governing council member Yves Mersch told Reuters.

Meanwhile, another paper said the European Union urgently needs a better plan to share the costs of dealing with large bank failures to prevent the risk of a severe “contagion effect.”

Economists Franklin Allen and Elena Carletti said that without clearer guidelines, European and global capital markets could be at risk.

Additional reporting by Ros Krasny and Pedro Nicolaci da Costa; Editing by Leslie Adler

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