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Powell: Fed committed to loose money, low rates for 'as long as it takes' as COVID-19 surges

Brian Cheung
·2 min read

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said on Tuesday that the central bank will keep interest rates near zero, and maintain a stance of easy monetary policy, until the U.S. economy fully recovers from the COVID-19 crisis.

“The Fed will stay here and be strongly committed to using all of our tools to support the recovery for as long as it takes until the job is well and truly done,” Powell said in remarks at the Bay Area Council.

He said the economy appears to have undergone a faster than expected recovery, but said the pace of improvement has been “slowing,” particularly among low-income workers in public-facing service industries.

With the recovery “incomplete,” Powell added that rising COVID-19 cases in the United States remains the biggest threat to the economy. The U.S. again broke a new record for new cases, with more than 180,000 reported Friday, which is jeopardizing the recovery.

“The near-term risk we’re most focused on is the spread of COVID these days,” Powell said.

While vaccine developments, like those from Pfizer and Moderna, make for positive news, the Fed chief cautioned that widespread inoculation is still many “challenging” months away.

“It's too soon to say with any confidence what the impact on the path of the economy will be from the vaccine,” Powell said.

In the meantime, Powell reiterated that the Fed is not thinking about raising rates, or shrinking a $7 trillion balance sheet swollen by massive bond purchases.

The Fed chief also hinted that the Fed’s liquidity facilities and backstopping of municipal bond and corporate debt markets — among other moves — may be extended into 2021. Twelve of the Fed’s 13 liquidity facilities are set to expire December 31.

On November 5, Powell said that the Fed and the Treasury had not made any decisions on extending those facilities.

But on the thought of the Fed closing down those facilities, Powell said Tuesday that he doesn’t “think that time is yet or very soon.”

The Fed’s next policy-setting meeting is scheduled for December 15 and 16.

Brian Cheung is a reporter covering the Fed, economics, and banking for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter @bcheungz.

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