As the U.S. economic recovery proceeds, investors have obviously been showing increasing willingness to take on risk, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both up 16% this year, the KBW Bank Index has risen 17%. A major factor in the recovery has been massive stimulus from the Federal Reserve, which has kept its short-term federal funds rate in a target range of zero to 0.25% since the end of 2008. Since September, the Fed has keep up its monthly purchases of $85 billion in long-term securities, in an effort to hold long-term rates down. Of course, the Fed cannot continue increasing the U.S. money supply at this rate forever, and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said after its last meeting on May 1 that it was "prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes." That was a change in the FOMC's language from previous statements, when the committee merely said it would "take appropriate account of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases as well as the extent of progress toward its economic objectives."
Speaking Tuesday at a conference in Stockholm, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia president Charles Plosser said that the " changes in the size and composition of the [Federal Reserve's] balance sheet pose challenges for the Fed's eventual exit from this period of extraordinary accommodation and for the normalization of monetary policy."