Harker Says Fed Needs to Start Discussing Tapering Timeline

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The Federal Reserve should begin discussing the time frame for paring back its bond-buying program, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker said.

“I think it is appropriate for us to slowly, carefully move back on our purchases at the appropriate time,” Harker said Wednesday during a virtual Women in Housing and Finance event. “When that is, that is something we need to start discussing.”

The U.S. central bank is currently buying $120 billion of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities per month as part of the policy program it put in place last year in response to the pandemic. Fed officials have said they will begin scaling back the purchases when the economy has made “substantial further progress” toward their goals, a condition many Fed-watchers believe will be met later this year.

Minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting in April, on which Harker sits but does not hold a vote on policy decisions this year, showed that “a number of participants suggested that if the economy continued to make rapid progress toward the committee’s goals, it might be appropriate at some point in upcoming meetings to begin discussing a plan for adjusting the pace of asset purchases.”

Harker and his Dallas Fed counterpart, Robert Kaplan, have both said publicly in recent weeks they would like those discussions to begin “sooner rather than later.”

“We have to be careful in removing accommodation so that we don’t create any kind of ‘taper tantrum,’” Harker said Wednesday. “And that’s why we need to communicate very early, very often what we’re going to do.”

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