If Richard Fisher, head of the Dallas Fed, is sure of anything, it’s that when it comes to monetary policy, uncertainty matters.
That was an argument Mr Fisher says he raised last month when his colleagues at the US central bank met to decide whether to pull back the Fed’s stimulus program.
In a speech on Thursday, Mr Fisher explained that the Fed’s decision not to taper could lead people to question their understanding of the rules:
The recent decision of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to maintain the pace of its large-scale asset purchases in the face of a generally improving labor market outlook and a widespread perception within financial markets, right or wrong, that the Fed had telegraphed a dialing back of the rate of purchases may have increased uncertainty about the future path of monetary policy. That was one argument raised against the decision not to taper. I know, because I made the argument, and I was not alone.
While the Fed’s decision confused the markets last month, Mr Fisher said that bigger surprises – which he calls Black Swans – can create paradigm shifts in the markets and lead to crises. He lists events such as the Great Depression and the 2006 housing market collapse as examples and, worryingly, says that a default on US debt would be in that league:
If the U.S. government defaults on its debt later this month, we’ll have a third example. The unthinkable will have become real, and the “full faith and credit” of the United States will be a mirage rather than accepted fact.
Mr Fisher does not have a vote on the Fed’s Open Market Committee this year.
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