Raskin: Fed's Actions Have Been 'Completely Appropriate'

Expanded Federal Reserve efforts to boost tepid growth and cut high unemployment are justified as broken housing markets and depleted household wealth act as a brake on the recovery, a top Fed official said Monday.

Even though the effect of aggressive Fed policies to ease financial conditions has been muted by declines in house values and consumer reticence, it would be wrong to conclude central bank actions are useless, Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Raskin said.

"The opposite conclusion might well be the case -- namely that additional policy accommodation is warranted under present circumstances," she said at an event sponsored by the University of Maryland Smith School of Business.

The Fed's aggressive actions have been "completely appropriate" in promoting job growth, Raskin said. Both fiscal and monetary policymakers should be considering a wide array of approaches for fostering job creation, she said.

Raskin's comments are the first statement on policy by a Fed official after a decision Sept. 20-21 to launch a new tool aimed at jump-starting weak growth. They reflect the views of an activist wing of policymakers. The Fed announced $400 billion in long-term bond purchases matched with sales of the same amount of short-term securities in a bid to push down longer-term interest rates.

The Fed also announced it would resume buying mortgage-related debt in an effort to help depressed housing markets recover.

Raskin's support for Fed action stands in contrast to the three Fed officials who dissented against the decision to take further measures last week. All three are due to speak later this week.

The Fed cut benchmark short term rates to near zero almost three years ago and has bought $2.3 trillion in longer term assets to further stimulate economic activity. Fed officials are divided over the issue. A core group believe the central bank should do what it can to prevent persistently high unemployment from slowing growth to the point the economy slides back into recession.

Fed officials are discussing measures including giving specific targets for unemployment and inflation that would reassure markets that the Fed won't quickly change the course of its ultra-loose policy.

Raskin said she would not support any policies that would permit inflation that is higher than what the Fed believes is optimal - 2 percent or a bit less.

"Raising inflation or raising inflation expectations ... is something I would be quite leery of," she said on Monday in response to questions after a speech to a University of Maryland event.

"Keeping inflationary expectations anchored is in my mind extremely important."