The Federal Reserve gets a lot of credit for what passes as an economic recovery. Whether it deserves that credit, going forward the Fed has very little power to influence events because it is essentially out of ammo to further ease. The economy, meanwhile, is still lackluster, despite the central bank’s unjustified optimism.
The Fed cast a warm and fuzzy glow in January, when it predicted a pickup in economic growth, which it cited as its rationale for tapering its bond buying campaign, called quantitative easing (QE). And if that acceleration doesn’t happen in the near future?
Don’t worry: Wall Street will just shift its predictions for a growth resurgence to the second half of the year, as it’s done every year since about 2005 — if memory serves correctly. At this time of year, the Street always says that things will get better in the second half.
The revision of fourth-quarter 2013 gross domestic product growth of 2.8% is not enough of a reason to reverse the Fed’s QE policy, which seems to have less and less effect on the real economy, according to the central bank’s own research. The Fed says it will gradually taper its monthly bond buying, most likely ending it altogether late in the year. But the Fed’s new chief,Janet Yellen, adds that it reserves the right to change course and increase the purchases if the economy dips.
If the current first quarter does end up with say, 1.5% GDP growth, the bad weather in much of the nation will be a factor. But the weather effect is still amorphous enough not to reverse course. Once winter fades, there will inevitably be a rebound effect, so the bank may have to wait until the third quarter before it feels comfortable saying anything about the true core rate of growth (although it probably will cut its 2014 forecast by the June meeting).