CNBC HAS LEARNED FROM A VARIETY OF FED SOURCES THAT A GROWING BLOC OF MEMBERS ON THE FEDERAL OPEN MARKET COMMITTEE FAVORS ASSET SALES OF SOME OF THE FED'S $1.25 TRILLION IN MORTGAGES AND THAT THERE IS LIKELY TO BE A VIGOROUS DEBATE AT NEXT WEEK'S MEETING ON THE ISSUE.
SOURCES TELL CNBC THAT AT LEAST SIX MEMBER OF THE FOMC FAVOR NEAR-TERM ASSETS SALES.
THEIR VIEWS ARE NOT MONOLITHIC: SOME SUCH AS JEFFREY LACKER WANT TO SELL ASSETS RIGHT NOW. OTHERS, SUCH AS ST. LOUIS FED PRESIDENT JIM BULLARD, WANT TO DO IT WHEN THE ECONOMY HAS CLEARLY TURNED AND FAVOR THE ASSETS SALES OVER OTHER MEASURES PROPOSED BY THE FED TO DRAIN LIQUIDITY.
OVERALL, THERE IS A LACK OF CONFIDENCE AMONG SOME FED MEMBERS IN THE MEASURES BEING DISCUSSED TO DRAIN LIQUIDITY. THEY INCLUDE NEVER TESTED REVERSE REPOS AND TERM DEPOSITS.
THIS MINORITY BLOC ON THE FED SEES ASSET SALES AS MORE PERMANENT AND LESS SPECULATIVE.
THE ONE WHO MATTERS MOST, FED CHAIRMAN BEN BERNANKE, IS SAID TO BE STILL UNCONVINCED ON THE ASSET SALE ISSUE. BUT HE HAS MOVED TOWARDS THE HAWKS IN RECENT WEEKS.
KEY TO ANY DECISION WILL BE WHAT FED GOVERNOR KEVIN WARSH BELIEVES. HE HASN'T SPOKEN MUCH ON THE ISSUE, BUT HAS WRITTEN THAT THE FED NEEDS TO BE AS FORCEFUL ON THE WAY OUT AS IT WAS ON THE WAY IN.
THERE IS UNLIKELY TO BE ANY MENTION OF ASSET SALES IN THE STATEMENT. BUT THE DEBATE WILL SHOW UP INCREASINGLY IN PUBLIC AND IN THE MINUTES IN THE MONTHS AHEAD.
THE LIKELY RESULT IF THE HAWKS PREVAIL: IF THE ECONOMY CONTINUES TO IMPROVE, THERE COULD BE A PROGRAM TO SELL ASSETS BY THE THIRD OR FOURTH QUARTER OF THIS YEAR.
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