Capital Ideas Blog

Nobelist Hansen: Overreliance on Fed leading to sluggishness

By Robin Mordfin
August 21, 2014

From: Blog


While the investment world waits on the edge of its seat for Janet Yellen’s speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, scheduled for tomorrow, Nobel Laureate Lars Peter Hansen has given some of his own forward guidance from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings in Lindau, Germany. His message to investors: Stop relying so much on forward guidance. (Fellow Nobel Laureate Eugene F. Fama shared his opinion on forward guidance in this episode of the Big Question.)

Hansen thinks that US has relied too much on the actions of the Federal Reserve following the Great Recession, and believes that reliance has led to sluggishness. Hansen told CNBC that the nation’s absorption with what the Fed will and will not do has left institutions guessing about what the future holds, which has in turn has caused inaction among investors.

“It has been a stunningly sluggish recovery from this recession. I really think in the US at least there has been too much attention devoted to monetary policy as the key to fixing up the problems. Going forward I think the challenges we face in financial market oversight uncertainty are potentially much more critical,” Hansen told CNBC. (Harald Uhlig of the University of Chicago joins Erik Hurst and Anil Kashyap of Chicago Booth to discuss whether slow growth is the new normal in this episode of the Big Question.)

Uncertainty—a confounding lack of knowledge about how the future will play out—has been a subject of growing interest since the beginning of the financial crisis. When uncertainty clouds the markets, investors tend to take a “wait and see” attitude and put off making any decision to buy or sell until something happens that gives them greater confidence to act. In the case of monetary policy uncertainty, investors worry that if the money supply grows too fast, the rate of inflation will increase, while if it the money supply slows down, growth many also slow down.

“I think the uncertainty that institutions have on what kind of regulatory there is going to be in the next few years is contributing to caution and contributing to caution in a way that is going to be counterproductive,” Hansen added. “I think clarity in policy is really critical in terms of getting investment stronger.”

While Fed Chair Janet Yellen, and her predecessor Ben Bernanke, have certainly attempted to communicate policy and plans in a clear, forthright fashion, Hansen believes improvements are going to come from investors themselves. Investors, he said, need to “jolt” themselves and get involved in new projects. 



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