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Fed Still Trying to Push Down Rates

Wall Street Journal (11/21/12) Jon Hilsenrath

U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said he would like to continue efforts to hold down long-term interest rates next year. He made the comment about additional asset purchases, buying mortgage-backed securities, and taking other actions at the New York Economic Club. Fed officials must decide at a Dec. 11-12 meeting whether to continue their bond-buying program to drive down interest rates in an attempt to boost borrowing, spending, and investment. Bernanke’s comments suggested he is inclined to press on with the program, though he didn’t say so explicitly.

In September, the Fed said it would keep buying bonds until it saw substantial improvement in the job market. On Tuesday, Bernanke played down the job-market improvement in recent weeks—another suggestion that the Fed intends to continue its policies. “The unemployment rate is still well above both its level prior to the onset of the recession and the level that my colleagues and I think can be sustained once a full recovery has been achieved,” Bernanke said in his statement. The jobless rate was 7.9% in October. Fed officials have said they think it can be reduced to between 5.2% and 6% without producing unwelcome wage inflation.