米ゼロ金利継続 景気低迷に警戒強めたFRB

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 29, 2012)
Fed's super-low rate policy aimed at boosting economy
米ゼロ金利継続 景気低迷に警戒強めたFRB(1月28日付・読売社説)

The U.S. Federal Reserve Board has decided to keep its de facto zero benchmark interest rate well into the future.

The Fed's new timetable indicates it is increasingly concerned about the future of the U.S. economy.

In deciding to maintain its close-to-zero interest rate policy, the Fed said in a statement released Wednesday that current U.S. economic conditions "are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014."

This new policy is highly significant as the Fed is prolonging its super-low interest rate a year and a half beyond its earlier stance that an extremely low interest rate should be maintained until the end of the first half of 2013.

The unemployment rate in the United States has remained high at more than 8 percent, while its post-inflation economic growth this year is projected to be below 2 percent.

U.S. business activities have yet to regain their strength.

The European sovereign crisis, which was triggered by Greece and has not yet been resolved, threatens to destabilize the global economy.

Should the European crisis deteriorate because of a delay in implementing countermeasures, the consequences could deal an even heavier blow to the U.S. economy.


Fed action praiseworthy

The Fed boldly decided to prolong its super-low federal funds rate policy to encourage declines in interest rates on long-term loans in the hope of shoring up business activities and stimulating fixed investments and other business areas.

It seems that in its latest policy meeting, the Fed could not brush aside growing uncertainties shrouding the global economy as seen in the eurozone's rapidly deteriorating business conditions and the world's alarmingly unstable financial markets.

The United States has no room for a further reduction of the federal funds rate, and the scope of measures to handle financial policies is limited.

The Fed's resolve to take all possible measures to bring about a strong economic recovery in spite of these circumstances is a welcome development.

The U.S. central bank has made public its outlook for a benchmark interest rate for the first time, indicating that many of its 17 members do not anticipate the need to tighten its monetary policy in the near future.

The Fed also set an acceptable rate of price increases at "2 percent from a year before," another noteworthy change that enhances the transparency of its policy handling.

The 2 percent "inflation goal" is different from a formal "inflation target" that would make it mandatory for the Fed to take measures immediately after price increases exceed 2 percent on an annual basis.

The announcement of the inflation goal, or what the Fed believes is an acceptable inflation rate, however, is sufficiently effective to convey a clear-cut message that it places great importance on an inflation figure of 2 percent.


Yen's appreciation to linger

A protracted ultraeasy monetary policy may bring the risk of higher prices.

Bearing such anxieties in mind, the Fed has firmly stated it will continue to place top priority on price stabilization, an action that will reassure businesses and households.

The focus from now on will be whether the Fed, in the event of further financial market destabilization, will opt for Phase 3 of large-scale quantitative monetary easing, the so-called QE3.

Phase 2--QE2--ended last summer, but it came under criticism for causing inflation in emerging economies to worsen.

Therefore, a number of hurdles need to be surmounted before QE3 can be adopted.

The Fed will have a difficult time carrying out policies, while keeping an eye on how the European crisis evolves.

Japan, for its part, must consider the great possibility that the appreciation of the historically strong yen against the dollar will continue, as the Fed's ultraeasy monetary policy is bound to increase selling pressure on the greenback.

The government and the Bank of Japan must do everything they can in working out measures to stem the yen's appreciation and take measures to prevent the strong yen from worsening business activities in this country.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 28, 2012)
(2012年1月28日01時14分 読売新聞)

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