WASHINGTON – The worlds top central bankers have said theyre willing to rescue the economies of Europe and the United States. This week well find out whether they are ready to act.
The Federal Reserve wraps up its two-day policy meeting today. Chairman Ben Bernanke has pledged to act if unemployment stays high. The European Central Bank meets Thursday – a week after ECB President Mario Draghi vowed to do whatever it takes to save the European common currency, the euro.
If the ECB comes through and follows up with what Mr. Draghi said a couple of days ago, thats big, says Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS. That would minimize the risk of a nasty scenario.
Investors are hoping the Fed and ECB will announce plans to flood markets with cash through large-scale bond purchases. But economists caution that the hopes might be dashed. The Fed might not be in a hurry to act. And investors might be expecting more of Draghi than he can deliver.
Economies on both sides of the Atlantic need help. Unemployment in the 17 countries that use the euro remained at a record 11.2 percent in June, the European Union reported Tuesday. The U.S. government announced last week that the American economy grew at a listless 1.5 percent annual pace from April through June, even slower than the 2 percent rate in the first three months. Still, many economists say the U.S. economy isnt yet weak enough to push the Fed to act now. Some good news dribbled in Tuesday: The Conference Board said consumer confidence rose in July for the first time in five months. The Commerce Department said Americans incomes grew in June at the fastest pace in three months. And the Standard & Poors/Case-Shiller home index showed that home prices rose in May from April in every city the index tracks.
Economists say its more likely the U.S. central bank will wait until its next meeting Sept. 12-13 if theyre going to do something.