Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Third District economic news is similar to the national news. It’s all bad. Our December business outlook survey, which remains confidential until Thursday, will post another very weak number. In November the number was minus 39.3. The December reading will be released, and it will be minus 32.9—somewhat better but still deeply in negative territory. New orders, shipments, and employment are all very weak. Price indexes on the survey have fallen appreciably below zero for the past two months and are near their lowest levels since we began the survey in 1969. This is after being at nearly their highest levels over the same interval just a few months ago. Moreover, firms are expecting prices to continue to decline. November’s reading marked the first time that the future prices-paid index has been negative. The mood is generally quite grim. The Greenbook also paints a very bleak picture. I would like to think that this isn’t the most likely outcome, but it is increasingly difficult to argue against that based on recent economic data. I have revised down my own forecast, of course. Although I’m still not quite as pessimistic as the Greenbook, I admit that the Greenbook is no longer an outlier as I am used to thinking about it. The forecasts for output are nearly as bad as or are worse than the economy experienced in 1974-75. Inflation has moderated significantly, and near-term inflationary expectations have also moderated. Our December Livingston survey participants see CPI inflation averaging just ½ percent in 2009. In the Greenbook, forecasted core inflation will be just over 1 percent next year and will decelerate to ¾ percent in 2010.
With the growth prospects so weak and inflation expectations decelerating, the appropriate real funds rate obviously will probably decline, raising the possibility as we discussed yesterday that the zero bound on nominal rates will pose a problem for us. At the same time, since mid-September the effective funds rate has been trading well below the FOMC’s target of 1 percent. As we discussed yesterday, we are effectively conducting monetary policy through quantitative easing—by which I mean an expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet by both conventional and nonconventional means. I have no objections in principle to this easing process; but as I discussed yesterday, I believe that we need to acknowledge publicly that we are now in a new regime, with a new way of implementing monetary policy, and that it is a deliberate choice of this Committee. Otherwise we risk confusing market participants or implying that we are no longer in control of monetary policy. But in doing so, we need to communicate how this policy will be conducted going forward. The Board of Governors and the FOMC will have to decide how they will handle the governance issues surrounding this new regime. It seems clear to me that monetary policy determinations should remain in the purview of the FOMC regardless of whether we are using standard or nonstandard policy tools.
Thus, I think we have to come to grips with three very important policy issues at this juncture. They include (1) how to implement monetary policy via an expansion of our balance sheets for standard fed funds targeting; (2) what decisionmaking process the FOMC and the Board should use in implementing these policies via the balance sheet expansion; and (3) how to communicate all of these to the public in a transparent and, most important, credible fashion. I agree with the Chairman that we need to maintain and embrace the collaborative process between the Board of Governors and the FOMC, which has been our method of moving forward during this crisis. But I remain convinced that in these times of uncertainty we need to be explicit and to communicate that monetary policy remains under the purview of the FOMC. As we discussed yesterday, our primary goal is to set policy that yields the best economic outcomes for the economy, consistent with our dual mandate. I think our history demonstrates that the institutional structure of the FOMC and clearly articulated goals and methods yield the best policy. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.