English (India)

Economic recovery is a hostage of COVID-19 trajectory-Fed's Powell

calendar 22/09/2020 - 20:52 UTC

Full text of Powell’s testimony speech:

The Federal Reserve, along with others across the government, is working to alleviate the economic fallout. We remain committed to using our tools to do what we can, for as long as it takes, to ensure that the recovery will be as strong as possible, and to limit lasting damage to the economy.

Economic activity has picked up from its depressed second-quarter level; when much of the economy was shut down to stem the spread of the virus. Many economic indicators show marked improvement. Household spending looks to have recovered about three-fourths of its earlier decline, likely owing in part to federal stimulus payments and expanded unemployment benefits. The housing sector has rebounded, and business fixed investment shows signs of improvement.

In the labor market, roughly half of the 22 million payroll jobs that were lost in March and April have been regained as people return to work. Both employment and overall economic activity, however, remain well below their pre-pandemic levels, and the path ahead continues to be highly uncertain. The downturn has not fallen equally on all Americans; those least able to bear the burden have been the most affected. The rise in joblessness has been especially severe for lower-wage workers, for women, and for African-Americans and Hispanics. This reversal of economic fortune has upended many lives and created great uncertainty about the future.

A full recovery is likely to come only when people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities. The path forward will depend on keeping the virus under control, and on policy actions taken at all levels of government.

Since mid-March, we have taken forceful action, implementing a policy of near-zero rates, increasing asset holdings, and standing up 13 emergency lending facilities. We took these measures to support broader financial conditions and more directly support the flow of credit to households, businesses of all sizes, and state and local governments. Our actions, taken together, have helped unlock more than $1 trillion of funding, which, in turn, has helped keep organizations from shuttering, putting them in a better position to keep workers on and to hire them back as the economy continues to recover.

The Main Street Lending Program (Main Street) has been of significant interest to this Committee and to the public. Many of the businesses affected by the pandemic are smaller firms that rely on banks for loans, rather than public credit markets. Main Street is designed to facilitate the flow of credit to small and medium-sized businesses. In establishing the facility, we conducted extensive outreach, soliciting public comment, and holding in-depth discussions with lenders and borrowers of all sizes. In response to feedback, we have continued to make adjustments to Main Street to provide greater support to small and medium-sized businesses and to nonprofit organizations such as educational institutions, hospitals, and social service organizations.

Nearly 600 banks, representing well more than half of the assets in the banking system, have either completed registration or are in the process of doing so. About 230 loans totaling roughly $2 billion are either funded or in the pipeline. Main Street is intended for businesses that were on a sound footing pre-pandemic and that have good longer-term prospects but which have encountered temporary cash flow problems due to the pandemic and are not able to get credit on reasonable terms as a result.

Main Street loans may not be the right solution for some businesses, in part because the CARES Act states clearly that these loans cannot be forgiven. Our credit facilities have improved lending conditions broadly, including for potential Main Street borrowers. The evidence suggests that most creditworthy small and medium-sized businesses can currently get loans from private-sector financial institutions.

Many of our programs rely on emergency lending powers that require the support of the Treasury Department and are available only in unusual circumstances. By serving as a backstop to key credit markets, our programs have significantly increased the extension of credit from private lenders. However, the facilities are only that—a backstop. They are designed to support the functioning of private markets, not to replace them. Moreover, these are lending, not spending powers. Many borrowers will benefit from these programs, as will the overall economy, but for others, a loan that could be difficult to repay might not be the answer. In these cases, direct financial support may be needed.

Our economy will recover fully from this difficult period. We remain committed to using our full range of tools to support the economy for as long as is needed.

 

 

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