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Fed's Bullard: Rates may stay low for 'quite some time'

January 11, 2010 | “MarketWatch"

TOKYO (MarketWatch) -- St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said Monday that U.S. interest rates may remain low for "quite some time," easing concerns over the potential for an interest-rate hike and helping to pull the dollar lower against its currency rivals.

"Policy rates are near zero in the U.S. and the rest of the [Group of Seven] countries, something not seen in postwar economic history," Bullard said in an address to a conference in Shanghai. "Interest rates may remain low for quite some time."

Shortly after the remarks, the euro was buying $1.4507, up from $1.4409 late Friday in North American trading. The yen strengthened as well, with the dollar buying 92.22 yen, down from 92.49 yen.

Low interest rates prompt lower returns for dollar-denominated assets, making the dollar less appealing against higher-yielding currencies.

Bullard said the market's focus on interest rates is "disappointing, given quantitative easing."

"Markets are still thinking of monetary policy strictly as changes in interest rates -- even though the Fed has been conducting successful policy this past year through quantitative easing," he said. "Markets should be focusing on quantitative monetary policy rather than interest-rate policy."

And the biggest challenge for monetary policy going forward will be "how to adjust the asset purchase program without generating inflation and still providing support to the economy while interest rates are near zero," Bullard said.

He said he would like the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee "to adopt a state-contingent policy rule that would allow for the adjustment of asset purchases as new information on the economy becomes available."

By Myra P. Saefong, MarketWatch

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