Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Now in English.

The Big Picture has a translation of today's statement from the Fed:

"The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to keep its target for the federal funds rate at 5-1/4 percent.

Recent indicators have been much worse than what we were hoping for: Housing is a bigger mess than we anticipated; Business Capex is heading south, as are durable goods. Retail sales have been punk for 3 months running, (and what' with those excuses from the retailers? Too hot! Too cold! Lunar eclipse!) Don't even ask about the Automakers. We expect the economy is likely to continue to soften until it slips to about a 1.5% GDP.

Even worse, recent readings on inflation have been elevated. We were hoping that inflation pressures would moderate as the economy stabilized, but no such luck.

In these circumstances, the Committee's predominant policy concern is that we have painted ourselves into a corner, and we are running out of options. On the one hand, Inflation remains an ongoing concern, as medical costs, food, and energy remain problematic. On the other hand, it is apparent that growth is cooling rapidly. Housing has flipped from a net positive for consumers and job seekers to a net negative.

All told, we are running out of options until one or the other of these gets much much worse. Future policy adjustments, therefore, will depend on the evolution of the outlook for both inflation and economic growth, as implied by incoming information. As noted above, if GDP slips below 1.5%, we will be shifting our bias towards easing. Appreciably worse that 1.5%, and we will have to act on rates to prevent a recession -- inflation be damned.

On a final note, the FOMC has taken up a collection, and as a retirement present, we are sending former Chairman Alan Greenspan to a lovely spa on Fiji Island for the foreseeable future. Since there are no satellite feeds, internet connections or any off island communications at all, the CHairman can thank us when he returns -- preferably, around December 2008.

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