Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As gloomy as our last meeting was, conditions have deteriorated substantially further since then. Practically all of my contacts reported that economic events had turned sharply lower once again in the last three to five weeks. This goes well beyond the auto sector and other parts of the District that have been struggling for some time. The most optimistic comment from my directors was this, “At least Iowa is going to hell slower than everywhere else.” [Laughter] It is tough to follow that accounting joke, you know—that was good. More seriously, the most optimistic theme I heard from a number of business contacts went something like this, “We are conserving cash and furiously cutting costs by year-end. But we hope to pause in the first quarter and take stock of where conditions appear to be heading. Then, we will act accordingly.” Frankly, I doubt such a wait-and-see pause in cost-cutting will occur that soon.
For the purposes of this meeting and our actions over the next few months, I agree with the main thrust of the Greenbook projection. We are facing large contractions in the next two quarters, and I don’t expect to see meaningfully positive growth before the fourth quarter. I think we need substantial further accommodation after today’s meeting. I see the timing and the size of those actions for the most part being shaped by the large recessionary forces in train and the enormous financial headwinds.
The disinflationary forces in play clearly are strong, but currently I do not expect that they will prove large enough to generate outright deflation. In terms of my earlier question about the Greenbook forecast—as I understand the way it was put together—if the quantitative easing helps, monetary policy would be somewhere between the funds rate at zero and the optimal control. So, in fact, it would be a little better than I first suspected. Inflation would be somewhat above that path. That might be a useful benchmark to watch for if we are fortunate enough for the forecast to be that stable, but time will tell.
Quantitative easing should also lead to an increase in the monetary base. I don’t know if there was any lasting conflict between your comments and President Lacker’s, but I think that what we have contemplated will lead to the base increasing and that will generate expectations about inflation beyond just Taylor-rule dynamics, I would guess. In fact, there is certainly a lot of discussion and criticism out there that our balance sheet is going to lead to large inflationary risks. I don’t share that, given how I think we will unwind the programs. But that certainly would help, and it would move us in that direction. So I will keep an open mind on deflationary risk. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.