In his press conference, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said, “If the incoming data are broadly consistent with this forecast, the Committee currently anticipates that it would be appropriate to moderate the monthly pace of purchases later this year. And if the subsequent data remain broadly aligned with our current expectations for the economy, we would continue to reduce the pace of purchases in measured steps through the first half of next year, ending purchases around midyear. In this scenario, when asset purchases ultimately come to an end, the unemployment rate would likely be in the vicinity of 7 percent, with solid economic growth supporting further job gains, a substantial improvement from the 8.1 percent unemployment rate that prevailed when the Committee announced this program.
“I would like to emphasize once more the point that our policy is in no way predetermined and will depend on the incoming data and the evolution of the outlook as well as on the cumulative progress toward our objectives. If conditions improve faster than expected, the pace of asset purchases could be reduced somewhat more quickly. If the outlook becomes less favorable, on the other hand, or if financial conditions are judged to be inconsistent with further progress in the labor markets, reductions in the pace of purchases could be delayed. Indeed, should it be needed, the Committee would be prepared to employ all of its tools, including an increase in the pace of purchases for a time, to promote a return to maximum employment in a context of price stability.
“It’s also worth noting here that, even if a modest reduction in the pace of asset purchases occurs, we would not be shrinking the Federal Reserve’s portfolio of securities, but only slowing the pace at which we are adding to the portfolio while continuing to reinvest principal payments and proceeds from maturing holdings as well. These large and growing holdings will continue to put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates. To use the analogy of driving an automobile, any slowing in the pace of purchases will be akin to letting up a bit on the gas pedal
as the car picks up speed, not to beginning to apply the brakes.”