Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen told the Senate Banking Committee Feb. 27 that the Central Bank may suspend further reductions in quantitative easing if economic growth continues to slow, although she conceded that some of the slowdown could be the result of severe winter weather, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Asset purchases are not on a preset course, so if there's a significant change in the outlook certainly we would be open to reconsidering, but I wouldn't want to jump to conclusions here,” Yellen told the committee, the Journal reported. She added that spending was softer the last two months than analysts had anticipated.
The Fed originally initiated its $85 billion per month bond-buying program in order to drive down borrowing costs to stimulate spending, hiring and investing. The Central Bank decided to cut the purchases down to $65 billion per month in January and indicated reductions would continue if steady economic growth persists.
However, economic data has shown signs of weakening growth since Feb. 13. Retail sales have fallen 0.4 percent, and industrial production dropped 0.3 percent in January. Housing has shown some signs of weakening as well.
In hearings the week of Feb. 24, Yellen indicated she would largely follow the policies of her predecessor Ben Bernanke, and noted that the federal government’s growing deficit needs addressing.
The Journal reported that Yellen downplayed concerns about the Central Bank’s large balance sheet, which exceeds $4 trillion. Some economists have expressed concern that the creation of new money to buy bonds could drive inflation higher or create new types of financial bubbles once recovery picks up more steam.
Yellen, however, argued that the regulatory agency still can tighten monetary policy despite the vastness of its holdings.
Some economists say the Fed could spur lending and growth by lowering the interest rate it pays on excess bank reserves, but Yellen said that if the Fed lowers the current 0.25 percent rate, it would have “a very limited effect on bank lending” and could disrupt money markets, the Journal reported.