Bloomberg News

Fed’s Evans Says U.S. Economy Hasn’t Reached ‘Escape Velocity’

December 20, 2011

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans said the U.S. economy hasn’t reached “escape velocity” and that monetary policy can remain easy until unemployment falls to 7 percent.

“No matter which explanation seems to be at work, we can continue to push accommodative policy” until the jobless level falls from the current level of 8.6 percent, he said during a panel discussion today near Florence, Italy.

Evans’s remarks are his first since he voted against the rest of the Federal Open Market Committee’s Dec. 13 decision to keep monetary policy unchanged, preferring additional stimulus instead. The Chicago Fed chief is the only policy maker this year to break from FOMC ranks in favor of further action to boost the U.S. economy.

The central bank refrained from taking new steps this week to lower borrowing costs. It retained a pledge to keep the benchmark U.S. interest rate “exceptionally low” at least through mid-2013. Fed officials lowered the target for the overnight lending rate between banks to zero to 0.25 percent in December 2008.

Some U.S. statistics are signaling that growth may be picking up. The fewest workers in three years filed claims for U.S. jobless benefits for the week ended Dec. 10, according to Labor Department figures issued yesterday in Washington. Other reports showed manufacturing accelerated this month after pausing in November.

Job gains accelerated last month, and the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to the lowest level since March 2009. Payrolls climbed 120,000 after a revised 100,000 increase in October.

Inflation Decelerates

Inflation has decelerated, based on the Fed’s preferred measure, the personal consumption expenditures price index excluding food and energy. That gauge rose 0.07 percent in October from September, the second-slowest gain in 2011.

The 53-year-old regional bank chief proposed earlier this year to keep the fed funds rate near zero until either unemployment falls below 7 percent or the medium-term inflation outlook rises above 3 percent. He has also said he would support more asset purchases if those objectives aren’t reached.

--Editors: Christopher Wellisz, James Tyson

To contact the reporters on this story: Vivien Lou Chen in San Francisco at vchen1@bloomberg.net; Chiara Vasarri in Rome at cvasarri@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz in Washington at cwellisz@bloomberg.net


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