US central bankers have explored the possibility of developing a digital currency that would be directly available to businesses and households, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell confirmed to lawmakers this week.
"While we are not currently developing a central bank digital currency, we have assessed and we continue to carefully analyze the costs and benefits of pursuing such an initiative in the U.S.," Powell wrote in a letter to lawmakers dated Tuesday.
A digital currency backed by the central bank in the largest economy would be unprecedented and raise a host of legal and operational questions. Powell said it would be closely considered by policymakers but added that the US could be in some ways better positioned than other countries that have looked into such a proposal.
"We are carefully monitoring the activities of other central banks to identify potential benefits that may be relevant in the U.S. context," he wrote. "To date, our observation is that many of the challenges they hope to address do not apply to the U.S."
The letter was a response to questions raised in September that said the central bank should consider a US-backed cryptocurrency to remain competitive.
"We are concerned that the primacy of the U.S. Dollar could be in long-term jeopardy from wide adoption of digital fiat currencies," the lawmakers wrote in the initial letter to Powell, adding that "it may become increasingly imperative that the Federal Reserve take up the project of developing a U.S. dollar digital currency."