Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker on Wednesday waded into the debate over when to reduce today's ultra-easy U.S. monetary policies, contending that the benefits of bond buying are "limited and diminishing" and warning that central banks are too often late in removing stimulus.
Volcker, who led the U.S. central bank's aggressive battle against inflation in the 1970s, said the decision to adjust policy will come down to good judgment, leadership and "institutional backbone" in the face of political pressure.
"Here and elsewhere, the temptation has been strong to wait and see before acting to remove stimulus and then moving toward restraint," Volcker, 85, told the Economic Club of New York.
"Too often the result is to be too late, to fail to appreciate growing imbalances and inflationary pressures before they are well ingrained," he said.
The Fed under Chairman Ben Bernanke is buying $85 billion in assets each month until the labor market improves, and has promised to keep rates near zero until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent or so, from last month's lofty 7.5 percent.
With inflation lower than target and the jobless rate having slowly fallen since the third round of quantitative easing (QE3) was launched in September 2012, investors are now anxiously predicting when the Fed will reduce the pace of purchases.