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Josh Feinman, global chief economist at DB Advisors, said the extension of Operation Twist allows the Fed to do something without expanding its portfolio of securities. Launching a new bond-buying program would have likely incited criticism that the Fed was escalating the long-term risks to the economy.
In part, that’s because the Fed would eventually find it harder to shrink its portfolio without driving interest rates back up and possibly threatening the economy.
"The downside risks have increased enough that they felt they needed to do something," Feinman said. "Extending Operation Twist was the path of least resistance."
The U.S. economy looks weaker than it did when the Fed last met in April. Growth was more sluggish in the first three months of the year than first estimated.
Job growth averaged only 73,000 in April and May, after average gains of 226,000 a month in the first three months of the year.
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits has risen about 5 percent in the past six weeks. And employers posted sharply fewer job openings in April compared with the previous month.
Economists also worry the debt crisis in Europe is worsening, even after Greek election results increased the likelihood that Greece will stay in the euro currency alliance.
This week’s Fed meeting was the first time that the Fed board has been at full strength in six years. Jeremy Stein, a Harvard economics professor, and Jerome Powell, a former private equity executive, attended their first policy meeting since being confirmed by the Senate last month.
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