Economists warn against Fed action
WASHINGTON — The best cure for the economy now is time.
That’s the overwhelming opinion of leading economists in a new Associated Press survey. They say the Federal Reserve shouldn’t bother trying to stimulate the economy — and could actually do damage if it did.
The economists are lowering their forecasts for job creation and economic growth for the rest of this year, mainly because of high oil prices. A batch of bleak data over the past month has suggested that the two-year-old economic recovery is slowing.
The economists now expect the nation to create 1.9 million jobs this year, about 200,000 fewer than when they were last surveyed eight weeks ago. They expect the unemployment rate, now 9.1 percent, to be 8.7 percent at year’s end. Before, they expected 8.4 percent.
Despite their gloomier outlook, 36 of the 38 economists surveyed oppose any further efforts by the Fed to invigorate growth.
The Fed has already cut short-term interest rates to near zero. And it’s ending a program to buy $600 billion in Treasury bonds to keep longer-term rates low to help spur spending and hiring.
The economists say another round of bond-buying wouldn’t provide much benefit, if any. And some fear it could make things worse by unleashing high inflation and disrupting financial markets.
When it buys bonds, the Fed in effect prints massive amounts of money. All that extra money in the system raises the nominal value of the things we buy, weakening the dollar, and it can create bubbles in the prices of stocks and commodities.
What the economy needs most, says John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo, is time. Consumers must further shrink debts amassed in the mid-2000s, and the depressed housing market needs time to recover.
“There are no magic bullets,’’ Silvia says. “A lot of this stuff just really needs to be dealt with. It’s not a question of stimulus.’’
In Washington, there’s little appetite for major spending projects to try to strengthen the economy. Lawmakers are focused instead on whether to raise the nation’s borrowing limit and how to cut its long-term debt.
President Obama is seeking smaller ways to spur hiring. In Durham, N.C., yesterday, he detailed a program to train 10,000 new US engineers each year.
Obama said private firms will join the government to promote education in science, technology, engineering and math. He said US companies need the brightest workers to remain leaders in technology and innovation.