The U.S. Federal Reserve on Sept. 18 announced that it will not pull back from its quantitative monetary easing, which features injecting a large amount of funds into the economy mainly through the purchase of U.S. government bonds.
The decision by the Federal Open Market Committee to continue its bond-buying program at the same pace surprised financial market players because they had thought that the United States was basically on a path of gradual economic recovery despite conflicting economic indicators and had expected the Fed to scale down its monetary easing in September.
At a news conference after the FOMC meeting, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said, “Conditions in the job market today still are far from what all of us would like to see.”
But it’s possible that the Fed chairman worries about the possible adverse effect of a change in Fed policy on U.S. federal finances, which are already suffering from a dysfunctional conflict over national debt in the U.S. Congress.
Despite Mr. Bernanke’s explanation of the FOMC decision, the employment situation is not so bad. When the current, third-round of monetary easing started a year ago, the unemployment rate stood at 8.1 percent. It came down to 7.3 percent in August, although the growth in the number of employed people was less than expected by market players. The 7.3 percent figure is close to 7 percent, a rate the Fed is to use as a criterion for ending its monetary easing.
Mr. Bernanke said that the improvement in employment is not enough, that an early scaling down of the monetary easing will decelerate economic growth, that the direction of monetary policy depends on continued improvement in the economy and that the Fed does not have a fixed calendar schedule. His explanation is rather unclear.
Attention must be paid to the fact that he once said a stall in talks on federal finances in the U.S. Congress due to partisan conflict posed an economic risk. Now that the U.S. economy has shown signs of its revival, it is important for the U.S. to overcome its domestic political conflict and to remove a factor that will negatively impact the world economy.
The U.S. Treasury Department said that it is inevitable that U.S. federal debts will top the legally set ceiling in mid-October. A high-ranking official of the U.S. Congressional Budget Office said that unless the ceiling is raised, there is the danger that U.S. federal bonds will default between late October and mid-November.
Since the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Syria has diminished for the time being, it has become all the more difficult for the Congress to shelve partisan conflict on U.S. federal finances. President Barack Obama and congressional leaders should make strenuous efforts to achieve a compromise in Congress over federal finances. The Fed, for its part, should closely explain its thinking and policy to the outside to prevent turbulence in the world economy, especially in emerging economies.