Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Former Fed chief says U.S. now in recession

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker said on Tuesday the U.S. housing sector faced more losses and the economy was in recession even as authorities moved to stabilize the financial system.

Volcker said the priority for U.S. authorities in the credit crisis was to stabilize the financial system even though that meant heavy government intrusion.

"The first priority is to stabilize the financial system. It is necessary even though the cost involved is heavy government intrusion in markets that should be private," he said in a speech at a seminar in Singapore.

"House prices in the U.S. are still declining. There are still more losses to come there. The economy, I believe, is in recession."

Volcker is chairman of the board of trustees of the Group of 30, an international body composed of central bank governors, leading economists and private financial sector experts.

He is credited for battling double-digit inflation that flared in the 1970s.

He was chairman of the U.S. central bank between 1979 and 1987, before handing the reins over to Alan Greenspan, and oversaw a sharp increase in interest rates to quell the price pressures.

Volcker was asked by a member of the audience if the massive infusion of liquidity by the Federal Reserve could lead to inflation or stagflation.

"It's not going to be a problem in the short run. Inflation doesn't flourish in the face of recession," he said.

"It's something we have to worry about when we get out of this recession."

The United States has announced various measures to combat a credit crisis that emanated from the U.S. housing market and which has spread globally.

U.S. authorities are expected to announce plans later on Tuesday to pump $250 billion into the country's banks following similar concerted measures in Europe to revive money markets and stave off a global recession.

"I have been around for a while. I have seen a lot of crises but I have never seen anything quite like this one," Volcker said.

"This crisis is an exception. I don't think we can escape damage to the real economy."

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