The Federal Reserve announced today it will continue to purchase additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month (QE3) and said it would initially begin buying $45 billion of long-term Treasury bonds each month.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve also shifted its communication strategy saying that interest rates will remain exceptionally low (at 0-1/4%) as long as the unemployment rate stays above 6.5% and inflation between 1-2 years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee's 2% longer-run goal.
At the conference, Bernanke commented that change in guidance style doesn't mean a change in the forecast for low rates through mid-2015. Instead, the new conditional guidance will work better at communicating to the public: if the economy improves faster than expected and the unemployment rate drops, markets can instantly update their expectations about Fed policy without having to wait for confirmation from the Fed, he said.
Meanwhile, Bernanke made it clear that just crossing one threshold and not the others won't necessarily trigger a rate change. He explained that if unemployment were to drop just below 6.5% while both inflation and inflation expectations remained "subdued," the "committee might judge and immediate increase to be inappropriate."
Regarding the fiscal cliff, Bernanke said that it is clearly having effects on the economy, through uncertainty and pessimism. "Clearly this is a major risk factor and a major source of uncertainty about the economy going forward," Bernanke says. He suspects Fed officials, in making their projections, assumed the fiscal cliff gets resolved "in some intermediate way," leaving some drag on the economy.