Fisher Backs Fed Purchases of Long-term Securities

The Federal Reserve should buy long-term Treasury securities, said President of the Dallas Federal Reserve, Richard Fisher, on Monday. “I assure you the Federal Reserve has not abandoned the wisdom of Milton Friedman or Walter Bagehot or any of the other established patron saints of central banking,” Fisher said in a speech at Harvard University. “But these are complex, trying times…we are the nation’s central bank and we are duty bound to apply every tool we can to clean up the mess that has soiled the face of the financial system…” Fisher said buying longer-term Treasurys is not necessarily a “sharp departure” from previous practices, as the Fed will often buy longer-term securities to maintain a well-balanced portfolio. “That said, in my opinion, we certainly shouldn’t try to peg long-term rates. Past efforts to do so soon have led to costly credit-market distortions and inevitably ended in tears.” He also cautioned the Federal Reserve should be careful to avoid any perception that it stands ready to monetize exploding federal deficits, because such a perception could “undermine confidence in our independence and raise serious doubts about our commitment to long-term price stability.” The fed must also make sure its actions are the “absolute minimum” needed, Fisher said. Buying Treasuries is a hot topic within the Federal Reserve — an idea that Fed members are split over. It has seemed that Fed Chief Ben Bernanke supports the idea in theory, but according to a Market Watch report, many believe the Fed is actively backing away from the idea in practice. Critics have said if the central bank purchases Treasurys, it would incur serious damage to the market for Treasurys. Write to Kelly Curran at Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.

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