Virus Will Have Lasting Impact on Prosperity, Fed’s Evans Says

(Bloomberg) -- The coronavirus outbreak will have a lasting impact on economic prosperity in the U.S. and around the world, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans said.

“Even under a best-case scenario, the U.S. and global economy will be less prosperous coming out of this crisis than we were going into it,” Evans said Wednesday during a teleconference hosted by the Economic Club of Chicago. “As we hunker down and stay at home, we are all using valuable resources and savings that we had intended to use for other aspirations.”

Evans, who’s led the Chicago Fed and sat on the U.S. central bank’s policy making panel since 2007, said the economy is set for a severe contraction in the second quarter, echoing predictions by private-sector forecasters. The unemployment rate “could go up to 20%,” he said, adding that it “could come back down” if policy makers are successful in providing adequate financial relief to households and businesses.

Fed officials have rolled out several measures in recent weeks to cushion the blow of the outbreak and the effects of the associated social-distancing efforts on economic activity. They cut their benchmark interest rate to nearly zero, restarted a number of crisis-era emergency credit facilities and launched new lending programs aimed directly at businesses large and small.

On March 23, the Fed announced it would establish two programs that would provide support to large companies, one of which would buy debt directly from issuers and the other which would buy securities in the secondary market for corporate debt.

“We have not yet stood this facility up, because we’re working on the terms of it -- it’s still a few weeks away, I think,” Evans said. The announcement alone, however, has “helped provide support” for companies by reducing volatility in those markets, he added.

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