Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think President Fisher at the last meeting actually proposed that, since we all knew where the economy was, we just suspend discussion and get on to what to do about it. Forgive me for a six-week reaction function here, President Fisher, but I tend to agree with that. I will be very brief. The points I will make have either been made or will be made, I am sure. [Laughter] We are facing dysfunctional financial markets, a rapidly weakening real economy, and a very negative psychology, a darkening mood. In addition, I am picking up in my contacts uncertainty or even questioning of what can be done and what good anything close to conventional monetary policy will do. My board of directors, advisory councils, and other contacts reflect deepening pessimism, and many of those contacts confirm the view that consumer activity and the economy in general pulled back dramatically in September and October.
I have adjusted my forecast similarly to the Greenbook and commercial forecasters. I think it is very difficult at this point to forecast with any confidence that conditions will gel in a way necessary for a recovery. The Greenbook sees a somewhat sharper snapback by midyear, reflecting the influence of a fiscal stimulus, than I am prepared at this time to project. Our forecast assumes a protracted period of weakness through all of 2009, somewhat more along the lines of the “more financial stress” scenario in the Greenbook.
Regarding financial markets, I would just comment that the pressures on the hedge fund sector have clearly not abated and may be intensifying. Over the weekend we picked up rumors of a Fed intervention that has not been discussed here, so I presume that it was just a rumor. Nonetheless, rumors were circulating that a major hedge fund group was about to collapse and that our people were “in,” so to speak, over the weekend. As Bill mentioned yesterday, the Madoff scandal certainly has not helped the picture regarding hedge funds.
Regarding risks, it is not my baseline scenario, but the risk of deflation obviously cannot be ignored, and the apparent speed of disinflation is quite a concern. The Atlanta staff prepared several forecast scenarios, and there were some plausible downside scenarios that really were quite ugly. So to preview later comments, I think the balance of risks at this point is decidedly to the downside and justifies a trauma-management approach—or, in more normal terms, a risk-management approach—of acting aggressively at this meeting. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.