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Fed's Richard Fisher: No Such Thing as QE Infinity, Won't Go That Route

FRANKFURT — Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher Thursday insisted there was "no such thing as QE infinity" and said no member of the Fed intended to move in that direction.

Taking questions after a speech in Frankfurt, Fisher reiterated his call for setting a clear limit to the Fed's quantitative easing policy.

He said he was "taken aback that the term QE infinity was being used in the marketplace...there's no such thing. We are not going to go that route." As a result, "I do think it would be useful...that we define how far we're willing to go."

Fisher reiterated his skepticism about the Fed's forward guidance, arguing it was a "question of credibility" if the Fed is committing future board members to a specific policy.

Instead, Fisher said defining an unemployment variable for when to begin tightening monetary policy would be "one way to go," though he repeated the Fed has less control over unemployment than it does over price stability.

Asked when the U.S. unemployment rate might decline substantially, which the Fed is looking for before tightening, Fisher responded: "Only when we get clear signals from the fiscal side."

The Fed president repeated his fear that, while the Fed has the instruments to exit from its easy monetary policy, it would be difficult to achieve. The exit "will be a heck of a lot harder because we've never done this before...the buy side is always easy to do. The sell side, it's a lot more difficult."

Fisher also said he expected Hurricane Sandy to have a "negative impact" on US GDP in the fourth quarter, but he expected a bounce-back in following quarters.

Fisher said resolving the US fiscal cliff standoff currently takes primacy over the European sovereign debt crisis as a source of uncertainty. "The most important thing for the world right now is resolving the fiscal cliff," he said.

Yet the Dallas Fed chief did not sound optimistic on the prospects for a deal. He said "the odds are long" that a permanent deal will come by the end of the year, when the fiscal cliff - a series of tax hikes and spending cuts amounting to about 4% of GDP - are due to take effect."

At the same time he stressed: "I'm not advocating a specific fiscal solution, other than begging for greater certainty."

Fisher also acknowledged the European crisis was having a "direct impact" on the U.S. economy through trade and by creating uncertainty.

"The European debt crisis is something obviously in need of resolution and the authorities are working to achieve that resolution," Fisher said.

Fisher also offered his implicit backing to the euro project, arguing that "a single currency is a good thing" that actually could discipline governments when it comes to spending.

"It does limit that national tendency of a politician to just give and give and give and not think about the cost," Fisher said.

On regulation, he declined to say whether he believed the U.S. should delay implementation of the Basel III capital standards, though he acknowledged "problems" in the United States with Basel II.

Fisher said it was "too early to judge the efficacy of Basel III," though he also stressed that "we clearly need international standards."

He reiterated his call to break up the largest US banks, arguing that the Dodd-Frank financial legislation has "exacerbates the problem of too-big-too fail." As things stand, he said, "I seriously doubt" the U.S. government would ever allow a systemically relevant institution to fail.

Market News International is a real-time global news service for fixed-income and foreign exchange market professionals. See www.marketnews.com.

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