Feb 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. central bank is unlikely to reverse its decision to wind down its bond-buying program just because employers hired fewer workers than expected in January, a top Federal Reserve official said on Friday.
“I will say this about the rest of our committee, is they are not swayed by a single number. They are thoughtful people,” Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher told CNBC, pointing to weather as the likely culprit behind weak jobs numbers in both December and January.
Fisher, who votes this year on the Fed’s policy-setting panel, is one of the central bank’s most vociferous opponents of the current round of bond buying, which has swollen the Fed’s balance sheet to more than $4 trillion.
The Fed took its first steps toward reducing its bond-buying program in December and January, cutting monthly purchases by $10 billion at each meeting to bring the monthly total down to $65 billion.
Several Fed officials in recent days have suggested that only signs of a serious downturn would stop them from continuing to wind down the program.
“There’s a lot of liquidity out there, it’s high-octane fuel, it is dirt cheap,” Fisher said on CNBC, where he was being interviewed jointly with CVS Caremark Chairman David Dorman. “The issue is what incents people like Dave and his colleagues - big, small, public, private - to use it. That’s something we cannot do.”
The Fed also cannot boost hiring if the reason that people are not finding jobs has to do with the structure of the economy, rather than economic ups and downs, Fisher said.
“We cannot affect anything but cyclical employment. Structural employment, that has to do with the way laws and incentives are created and that goes back to Congress of the United States, the executive of the United States,” he said. “There’s a limit to what the tool of monetary policy can affect.”
On Friday, he reiterated his long-held view that it is regulatory and fiscal policy, rather than monetary policy, which is responsible for the tepid recovery.
“I would ask the business people that you talk to, what is holding them back from committing to greater capex here in the United States and from employing more people - I am very skeptical that it’s monetary policy,” he said.
U.S. employers hired far fewer workers than expected in January, and job gains for the prior month were barely revised up, a government report showed.
Before the figures were announced, Fisher said he would blame any weakness on the bad weather.
“Literally, the consumer has been frozen,” he said before the report.