WASHINGTON – Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, saying the job market is far from normal, made clear Monday that the central bank remains committed to providing extraordinary support for the economy for some time.
Yellen’s remarks in Chicago were meant to reassure investors and others after statements earlier in March that indicated the Fed might start raising short-term interest rates as soon as early next year – sooner than many had been expecting.
“She is backtracking some from her hawkish-sounding remarks from the press conference a couple weeks ago,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of BMO Private Bank in Chicago. “This suggests they’re not going to turn on the tightening (of monetary policy) anytime soon.”
Yellen also used the occasion of her first public speech since becoming the Fed chief two months ago to cast the data-crunching, marble-headquartered institution in a softer light. She noted that the Fed’s goal is to help Main Street, not Wall Street. To buttress this point, she laced her remarks with anecdotes about real workers still struggling to recover from the recession, something her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, rarely did.
“They are a reminder that there are real people behind the statistics,” she said at a community reinvestment conference in Chicago.
Since the start of this year, the central bank has been cutting the amount of its bond purchases, but Yellen said Monday that the Fed is keen on continuing to help grow the economy.