Fed Chair Powell Says "Full Recovery Unlikely Until People Feel Safe"

Fed Chair Jay Powell has released his prepared remarks for his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee tomorrow (with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin).

”We have entered an important new phase and have done so sooner than expected,” Powell noted.

“While this bounceback in economic activity is welcome, it also presents new challenges—notably, the need to keep the virus in check.”

While noting the push to lift restrictions on commercial activity, Powell critically expressed the need to contain the virus, noting that "a full recovery is unlikely until people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities."

Nothing jumps out from the prepared remarks that should be market-moving

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Full Prepared Remarks below:

Chairwoman Waters, Ranking Member McHenry, and other members of the Committee thank you for the opportunity to testify today to discuss the extraordinary challenges our nation is facing and the steps we are taking to address them.

We meet as the pandemic continues to cause tremendous hardship, taking lives, and livelihoods both at home and around the world. This is a global public health crisis, and we remain grateful to our health-care professionals for delivering the most important response, and to our essential workers who help us meet our daily needs. These dedicated people put themselves at risk day after day in service to others and to our country.

Beginning in March, the virus and the forceful measures taken to control its spread induced a sharp decline in economic activity and a surge in job losses. Indicators of spending and production plummeted in April, and the decline in real gross domestic product, or GDP, in the second quarter is likely to be the largest on record. The arrival of the pandemic gave rise to tremendous strains in some essential financial markets, impairing the flow of credit in the economy and threatening an even greater weakening of economic activity and loss of jobs.

The crisis was met by swift and forceful policy action across the government, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). This direct support is making a critical difference not just in helping families and businesses in a time of need, but also in limiting long-lasting damage to our economy.

As the economy reopens, incoming data are beginning to reflect a resumption of economic activity: Many businesses are opening their doors, hiring is picking up, and spending is increasing. Employment moved higher, and consumer spending rebounded strongly in May. We have entered an important new phase and have done so sooner than expected. While this bounceback in economic activity is welcome, it also presents new challenges—notably, the need to keep the virus in check.

While recent economic data offer some positive signs, we are keeping in mind that more than 20 million Americans have lost their jobs and that the pain has not been evenly spread. The rise in joblessness has been especially severe for lower-wage workers, for women, and for African Americans and Hispanics. This reversal of economic fortune has caused a level of pain that is hard to capture in words as lives are upended amid great uncertainty about the future.

Output and employment remain far below their pre-pandemic levels. The path forward for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain and will depend in large part on our success in containing the virus. A full recovery is unlikely until people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities.

The path forward will also depend on the policy actions taken at all levels of government to provide relief and to support the recovery for as long as needed.

The Federal Reserve's response to these extraordinary developments has been guided by our mandate to promote maximum employment and stable prices for the American people as well as our role in fostering the stability of the financial system. Our actions and programs directly support the flow of credit to households, to businesses of all sizes, and to state and local governments. These programs benefit Main Street by providing financing where it is not otherwise available, helping employers to keep their workers, and allowing consumers to continue spending. In many cases, by serving as a backstop to key financial markets, the programs help increase the willingness of private lenders to extend credit and ease financial conditions for families and businesses across the country. The passage of the CARES Act by Congress was critical in enabling the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department to establish many of these lending programs. We are strongly committed to using these programs, as well as our other tools, to do what we can to provide stability, to ensure that the recovery will be as strong as possible, and to limit lasting damage to the economy.

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