Economist Morici: Not Much More the Fed Can Do

Thursday, 26 Jul 2012 04:20 PM

By Nancy Stanley

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While the Federal Reserve is close to announcing additional measures to stimulate the economy, there is little left that the central bank can do to constrain the threat of another recession, according to Peter Morici, professor at the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The Fed has already done all the actions that might make a difference, and short-term interest rates, including the overnight bank-borrowing rate and the one-month and one-year Treasury bills, are already close to 0 percent.

Moreover, the yields on 30-year Treasurys and mortgage rates are near record lows, so any additional Fed measures would not be effective, he wrote on his website.

Yet, the economy is growing at less than 2 percent, and jobs creation is not even keeping up with the population growth.

Editor's Note: Economist Warns: ‘Money From Heaven a Path to Hell.’ See Evidence.

The continuing European debt crisis, resulting in a weaker euro, and the slowdown in China, resulting in a weaker Yuan, suggest that exporting and importing businesses in the United States will be challenged by a difficult environment for the rest of the year, Morici said.

And trade deficits on consumer goods and oil with china, as a result of government inaction, negatively affects demand for U.S. products.

“Simply, Americans—even those with secure jobs—are hunkering down for a long siege and disgusted and frightened by corporate leaders and bankers who take outsized salaries while they mine the nation’s assets to invest abroad and gamble with government-insured money,” he wrote. “All the while, they place the prosperity of ordinary Americans at grave risk to serve their avarice.”

The Federal Open Market Committee is scheduled to meet next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Even if the Fed announces that it plans to keep the short-term interest rates near 0 percent for the next few years, it would have little impact on investors, as few expect the Fed to increase rates any time soon.

“Central bank policy can help dampen inflation when the economy overheats and lift borrowing and home sales a bit when it falters, but it can’t instigate faster growth when the president and Congress fail to address structural problems,” he wrote.

“Lacking better policies from the Oval Office, there is little the Federal Reserve can do,” Morici said.

Most Wall Street investment experts believe that more stimulus from the Fed is coming, according to a recent CNNMoney survey.

Editor's Note: Economist Warns: ‘Money From Heaven a Path to Hell.’ See Evidence.

Of the 30 experts polled, two-thirds said the Fed’s extension of its Operation Twist policy at the FOMC meeting in June was warranted, and the same percentage believed the Fed will reconsider a third round of quantitative easing (QE3).

At the beginning of the year, experts wanted the Fed to start QE3 as a “last resort,” as the job market was improving and the manufacturing sector was strengthening, CNNMoney reported.

“Extending Operation Twist was a less overt move for the Fed to keep interest rates low, but I think economic conditions are moving in a direction that it could become necessary for the Fed to pump money into the system in a more obvious way through QE3,” Tom Schrader, managing director at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. Inc., told CNNMoney.

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