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US banker warns of slower growth PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Xinhua . Beijing

The US will probably experience slower economic growth rather than a deeper downturn, predicts Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas president Richard Fisher.

The most likely scenario is the US will avoid a 'prolonged period of negative economic growth,' Fisher said in Fort Worth, Texas, without mentioning the term 'recession,' Bloomberg News reported.

He also said he's hearing increasing expressions of concern from executives about inflation, which got his 'attention.' Fisher spoke after data last week showed the US was moving closer to a recession, while inflation was accelerating at the same time.

He said on Friday that the slowdown in growth will probably last for a 'couple' of quarters and warned it may be difficult to quickly raise interest rates. Fed officials anticipate growth of 1.3 per cent to two per cent this year, down from 2.5 per cent in 2007.

Two members of the panel charged with dating US economic cycles said yesterday that it's too early to decide whether the US is in recession. 'We have to be wary of the fact that we are navigating through an extremely narrow passageway here: with on the one side of us inflationary shoals and on the other the risk of weaker economic growth,' said Fisher, who alone voted against the Federal Open Market Committee's January 30 decision to lower the benchmark rate by half a point.

The Fed is doing its 'very best' to find the right balance between the concerns about both growth and inflation, Fisher said. The central bank must be careful not to stir inflation 'embers,' he told the Petroleum Club of Fort Worth. Business executives have relayed concerns about 'building cost pressures,' Fisher said.

Policy makers last month lowered their benchmark rate by 1.25 percentage points to three per cent, with an emergency reduction of three-quarters of a point on January 22.

The moves were the fastest easing of monetary policy in two decades. The Fed's rate cuts may be more difficult to reverse in practice than in theory, said Fisher, 58. The former hedge fund manager, US trade official and Senate candidate became head of the Dallas Fed in April 2005.

Minutes of the Fed's January 9 and January 21 conference calls and January 29-30 meeting showed that some officials may favor a 'rapid' reversal of rate cuts when the economy stabilizes. 'It just seems to me to put yourself in that position where one might have to shift gears suddenly is a bit precarious,' Fisher said.

'The ability to raise rates quickly if the mood has shifted' may be 'a more difficult thing to do in practice than in theory,' he said.

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