NEW YORK - Chicago Fed President Charles Evans Tuesday night said that "I don’t have a number in mind" when asked how much Fed asset purchases will be enough to aid the U.S. recovery but "I will know it when we get there."
Evans answered questions after a speech to the New York University Money Marketeers.
In later questions from reporters in a smaller group, Evans said that "I had not been tremendously optimistic about further strong declines in unemployment" as he interpreted such jobless declines "as a catch-up" and added that, "I have been surprised that inflation had stayed elevated."
Evans also repeated that the Fed should "indicate that the Fed funds rate" be kept at the current unusually low levels "until the unemployment rate fell below 7%." He also said that once the Fed would see economic progress that it can "work out its way back from that."
"The 2.5% and 3% growth is not enough to make meaningful progress on the unemployment rate," he added.
Evans told the audience that the FOMC "will keep trying" by unusual policy additions until "we make progress" and added the Fed could do more in terms of Operation Twist or other asset purchases and he would like more clarity on when to do Operation Twist or other asset purchases.
He minimized concern about whether the Fed would suffer losses on profits on its asset purchase portfolio. He also added that he would rather try harder than like Japan, not do enough. But he added that the different points of view on the FOMC are very important and that members have "differences" too on the forward policy guidance.
Evans demurred when asked a question about whether Germany should exit the euro currency but did mention that U.S. banks should manage their European risk assiduously.
Evans spoke two days before Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is to address the Congress' Joint Economic Committe at 10:00 a.m. ET Thursday.
Earlier, in his prepared remarks, Evans kept up his campaign of more accommodation to help jobs and acknowledged the upcoming FOMC meeting will face economic data that has softened since the most recent forecast updates.
Evans also said current low interest rates are "wildly inconsistent" with fears of accelerating inflation.
Evans, speaking to the New York University Money Marketeers, said the midpoint of the FOMC's most recent quarterly forecasts was "a bit under 3 percent over the next three years," and "I'd have to say the incoming data since those forecasts were made have been on the soft side."
"With such growth rates, we would close the large existing resource gaps only gradually," he went one. "Indeed, I expect that we will face unemployment well above sustainable levels for some time to come."
On inflation, "I don't foresee much risk that inflation will rise above reasonable tolerance levels" for the Fed's 2% objective.
With "anemic" wage pressures "it is simply hard to see how any persistent outsized inflation pressures could occur without some parallel building of wages costs" as in the 1970s, Evans said.
"Currently, inflation expectations are well anchored, and so they impart little pull on inflation one way or the other," he said. "Putting all of this together (and given that inflation has stood at 1.8. percent over the past year), I conclude that inflation will likely remain near or below our 2 percent target over the medium term."
Evans repeated, as he has since the summer of 2010, that the FOMC should employ the "strongest policy accommodation possible" and should not raise rates until unemployment falls below 7%.
"I have consistently argued for the strongest policy accommodation available," he said. "With huge resource gaps, slow growth and low inflation, the economic circumstances warrant extremely strong accommodation," he said. Europe's problems and the impending "fiscal cliff" in the U.S. only add to the arguments for more accommodation, he said.
Evans went back over his view that despite the 2% inflation target, that a large miss on the employment mandate means "we should be willing to undertake policy that could substantially reduce the employment gap but run the risk of a modest, transitory rise in inflation that remains within the risk of a modest, transitory rise in inflation that remains within a reasonable tolerance range."
He also dismissed concerns that, "with an explosion in the monetary base like this, inflation must be just around the corner." Despite the fact the prediction has been made since mid 2009, three years later, he said, "it has not come close to fruition."
As to overall inflation, "The 10-year Treasury rate was 1.45% as of June 1," he said. "This is unprecedented in the post-World War II economy and it is wildly inconsistent with rising inflation over the timeframe that monetary policy is concerned with, such as the next ten years."
"With inflation near target, relatively moderate economic growth expected for several more years, potential productive capacity at risk, and a symmetric 2 percent inflation target, we should resist the sirens call to prematurely raise rates or tighten our policy in any way," Evans concluded. "Instead, we should be providing more accommodation, in particular by better articulating the economic conditions under which our policy moves will be linked to the achievement of our mandated economic goals."
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