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No big change to Federal policy on my watch, says Janet Yellen

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 - 9:05am IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph

US Federal Reserve chairman Janet Yellen yesterday (Tuesday) used her first official public address since taking the role to emphasise continuity of monetary policy at the central bank.

America will continue tapering its monthly bond-buying programme at steady intervals, as long as data suggests the US economy and labour market is improving as expected, Mrs Yellen said.

"I expect a great deal of continuity in the Federal Open Market Committee's approach to monetary policy," Mrs Yellen told the House Financial Services Committee. "I served on the committee as we formulated our current policy strategy and I strongly support that strategy."

Judging by her early remarks, analysts can expect a great deal of continuity of language as well. She offered the usual caveats on the Fed's tapering plans, employing the same language used by her predecessor Ben Bernanke.

Asset purchases "are not on a preset course", and could be steadied or increased if the US labour market does not recover as strongly as expected.

Interest rates are likely to increase when unemployment falls below 6.5% and inflation hits around 2%, but these thresholds "will not automatically prompt an increase", she added.

During the lengthy question and answer session that followed her speech, a number of members of Congress became agitated as they pushed Mrs Yellen to take a harder line on banking reform, or to drop the caveats from her guidance.

The 67 year-old, who has made history as the first woman to lead the central bank, remained calm and deliberate, as she stuck to the Fed's established position.

Republican Ed Perlmutter recalled her predecessor, Mr Bernanke, who stepped down last month after a tenure in which he proved himself to be "very smart, very steady and not very exciting".

"I have to say, you're following in his footsteps," he said. "Thank you, I appreciate that," came Mrs Yellen's response.

Analysts took a similar view. UBS described her inaugural speech as a "yawn". IHS insight concluded that "it would take a lot, perhaps including a decline in inflation, for the Fed to rethink its current strategy".

However, the lack of fireworks had a positive effect on markets around the world.

FTSE 100 closed up 81.11 points, or 1.2%, at 6,672.66. In America, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 194.22 points, or 1.23%, to 15,996.01 in early afternoon trading, while the S&P 500 index rose 18.89, or 1.05%, to 1,818.62.




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