Hints from the U.S. Federal Reserve this week that the quantitative easing (QE) taper is near pushed the Dow down 105 points Wednesday - but the idea of less Fed stimulus has caused much more turmoil in certain overseas markets.
The problem: A corresponding hike in U.S. debt yields has fueled higher borrowing costs around the globe. This has led to the flight of cheap capital out of emerging currencies and markets.
That triggered the following reactions:
Check Out What the FOMC Meeting Minutes Did to the Stock Market Today
In one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting minutes from July 30-31 were released today (Wednesday).
They will be picked apart for days - but here's what you need to know.
FOMC Meeting: Fed Just Backtracked on QE Taper Talk
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting ended today (Wednesday) with word that the Fed plans to the stay the course on QE for now, backtracking from earlier hints it might begin tapering this fall.
"For all those looking for clear guidance on when quantitative easing will end, well, you will have to wait a little longer," Joel Naroff, president and chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors Inc., wrote in a research note. "Indeed, there may have been some walking backwards today."
Money Morning Capital Wave Strategist Shah Gilani said it's no surprise the Fed has backed away from talk of tapering.
Another Big Fed Week: The Bernanke Monetary Policy Testimony to Congress
There's a key market-moving event this week investors can't miss: the semi-annual Ben Bernanke monetary policy testimony before Congress on Wednesday (House) and Thursday (Senate).
Congressional legislation known as Humphrey-Hawkins (now expired) required the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee to report to Congress on both the state of the U.S. economy and monetary policy twice a year (February and July). The Fed Chairman testifies before Congress in conjunction with the report.
Traditionally, it had been one of the most important public appearances by the Fed Chairman, back when speeches were rare. But now with news conferences after many Fed meetings, these appearances are less important.
However, this time may be different, as it will be Ben Bernanke's last time in front of Congress before his term ends in 2014. The testimony may once again be a market moving event due to the market's recent concern about the Fed's 'tapering' of quantitative easing (QE).
Which Ben Will Deliver the Monetary Policy Testimony?
The markets have been confused lately by seemingly contradictory statements coming from various Fed members and particularly from Bernanke himself.
In fact, Bernanke's actions lately remind me of Batman villain Two-Face, aka former District Attorney Harvey Dent.
For example, one time he said that winding down QE may happen as soon as the middle of next year. But then, like last week, he flips saying the Fed will not taper the $85 billion a month bond purchasing plan until the U.S. economy is stronger.
He said, "highly accommodative monetary policy for the foreseeable future is what's needed [for the economy]."
Bernanke added that there would not be an automatic rise in interest rates either when the U.S. unemployment hit the Fed's target of 6.5%.
These statements sent the stock market solidly higher with both the S&P 500 and the Dow Industrials nearing their record highs. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average hit new record highs Monday closing at 1,682.50 and 15,484.26.
Traders believe the 'Bernanke put' was back in play. That is, Bernanke will do everything he can to keep stock prices higher.
So which Ben Bernanke will testify before Congress this week? Accommodative Ben or Tightening Ben?
Different Fed Chairman, Same Bad Monetary Policy in 2014
One of these economic alchemists may likely assume the job of Ben Bernanke. If so, pray for us.
Last week, President Obama indicated that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will likely step down in January when his term ends. After taking office in 2006 under then-President George W. Bush, Bernanke has facilitated the greatest economic transfer of wealth from America's grandchildren to banks and foreign nations in the name of sustaining the Keynesian vision of the economic stimulus.
But with Bernanke's departure, it is unclear just who will take the reins of the Federal Reserve, and what policies they will seek to maintain or discard five years after the height of the financial crisis.
Here are the five top contenders that we expect to make Obama's shortlist for next Fed Chairman. And each one of them should give us a great deal of concern due to their commitment to the same tired economic theory and policies that they are convinced will eventually work if we just keep doubling down.