Fed is expected to further trim bond purchases

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 29, 2014 at 5:38 am •  Published: January 29, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve is expected Wednesday to further reduce its stimulus for the U.S. economy even though that prospect has unsettled global financial markets.

The Fed announced last month that it would pare its monthly bond purchases from $85 billion to $75 billion. And it said that if the economy kept improving, it would likely further slow its bond buying at future meetings. The Fed's bond purchases have been intended to keep long-term loan rates low to spur spending and economic growth.

Most economists expect a string of $10 billion monthly reductions in bond purchases to be announced at each Fed meeting this year, concluding with a final $15 billion cut in December.

The two-day Fed meeting that ends Wednesday will be the last to be presided over by Ben Bernanke, who is stepping down after eight years as chairman and will be succeeded next week by Vice Chair Janet Yellen. She is expected to stick closely with Bernanke's policies.

Last month, along with the modest trim in its bond purchases, the Fed made clear it plans to keep short-term rates historically low "well past" the time the unemployment rate dips below 6.5 percent. The rate is now 6.7 percent.

Managing a slowdown in the Fed's bond purchases without roiling markets will pose a tough early test for Yellen. Investors have been nervous in part because a pullback in Fed bond buying will likely mean higher rates. Borrowing could weaken as a result.

Many also fear that higher U.S. rates will lead some bond investors to move cash out of emerging markets and into the United States to seek higher returns. That fear has depressed currency values and roiled stock markets in a number of developing countries.

The Turkish central bank held an emergency meeting Tuesday and announced it was raising a key rate from 7.75 percent to 12 percent to try to reduce inflation and boost its currency, the lira, which had fallen to a record low.

The Fed decided in December to start trimming the bond purchases mainly because of evidence the U.S. economy is strengthening and needs less support from the Fed.

Turmoil in overseas markets has battered the currencies of Turkey, Argentina and other emerging economies. Those economies had previously enjoyed an inflow of investor money.

"Now, those countries are having to deal with a reversal of those flows," said David Jones, chief economist at DMJ Advisors and the author of a new book on the Fed.

Jones see the market turbulence as a "perfect illustration of the tricky transition that Yellen will have to manage" as the Fed winds down the programs it put in place after the financial crisis erupted in 2008. Still, he doesn't think the Fed will diverge from the pace of its bond-buying reductions unless market turmoil begins to slow the U.S. economic recovery.