Fed’s Powell Signals Tapering Timeline Is Less Clear Because of Delta Variant

Bitcoin and other risk assets benefit from the liquidity that quantitative easing brings to the markets.

AccessTimeIconAug 27, 2021 at 2:18 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 4:51 p.m. UTC
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The U.S. Federal Reserve is planning to keep quantitative easing loose – encouraging spending and investing – for a little while longer.

This means that for now the market will continue to have more liquidity making it easier for investors to spend on riskier assets like bitcoin. Following the release of Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s prepared remarks at 14:00 UTC, the price of bitcoin rose 0.8% to $47,680 and has continued to rise since then.

At the Fed’s virtual Jackson Hole symposium, Powell said Friday the central bank’s goals for progress on inflation had been met, that there had been progress toward maximum employment and that the timing of tapering would not dictate the timing of an increase in interest rates.

Recent jobs prints have been north of 800,000 jobs added per month, but the path of the COVID-19 pandemic and its virus variants creating another wave of infections has increased macroeconomic uncertainty.

“At the FOMC’s recent July meeting, I was of the view, as were most participants, that if the economy evolved broadly as anticipated it could be appropriate to start reducing the pace of asset purchases this year,” Powell said, referring to the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) which sets monetary policy for the U.S. central bank. “The intervening month has brought more progress in the form of a strong employment report for July, but also the further spread of the Delta variant. We will be carefully assessing incoming data and the evolving risks.

”Even after our asset purchases end, our elevated holdings of longer-term securities will continue to support accommodative financial conditions,” Powell added.

The chair’s comments likely means that there is a “zero chance” the central bank tapers in September, said Steven Kelly, a research associate at the Yale Program on Financial Stability. Kelly added that there might be “slightly more detail” about when the bank might slow asset purchases in September.

Powell’s speech reflected the central bank’s understanding that it has undershot both its full employment goals and inflation goals in the past.

“If a central bank tightens policy in response to factors that turn out to be temporary, the main policy effects are likely to arrive after the need has passed,” Powell said. “The ill-timed policy move unnecessarily slows hiring and other economic activity and pushes inflation lower than desired. Today, with substantial slack remaining in the labor market and the pandemic continuing, such a mistake could be particularly harmful. We know that extended periods of unemployment can mean lasting harm to workers and to the productive capacity of the economy.”

Powell also noted there has been elevated inflation in the cost of durable goods, but that sector has experienced an “annual inflation rate well below zero over the past quarter-century.” The Fed chair has characterized high inflation in recent months as “transitory.”


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Nate DiCamillo

Nate DiCamillo is a business reporter at CoinDesk with a focus on banking and economics.

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