Ever wonder why they call the Federal Reserve “The Creature From Jekyll Island?" Shah Gilani explains…
- There's More Than One Way for the Fed to End QE
- Prepare for Years of "QE Forever' with Ben Bernanke at the Helm
- Ben Bernanke Testimony: We Have "Belts, Suspenders" to Unwind Balance Sheet
- With Unchecked U.S. Spending, It's Time to Hedge Against Inflation
- What Every Investor Should Know About the End of QE
- The Bernanke Shock
- FOMC Preview: Will the Fed Continue its $85B/Month Bond-Buying Program?
- Will the Fed End QE This Summer?
- The Trillion Dollar Trick
- Did the Fed Just Admit QE3 Has Been a Major Failure?
- What You Probably Don't Know About The Federal Reserve and Why It's So Dangerous
- QE Infinity Won't Work, But Here's What Will
- QE3 and Low Interest Rates Help Savers? Bernanke Thinks So
- How QE3 and Higher Inflation Are Part of the Fed's Master Plan
- QE3 Not Required: Three Stocks Thriving Without the Fed
- The QE3 Dangers Bernanke Isn’t Telling You About
The market has been looking ahead to the inevitable end of the U.S. Federal Reserve's quantitative easing (QE) program with considerable apprehension.
Most market observers expect the end of the Fed's QE asset-purchasing program to immediately result in a sharp sell-off in bonds and higher interest rates.
This is expected to hit the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) market, where the Fed has been very active, quite hard.
As part of a policy to communicate more openly with the markets, Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Fed have been regularly launching QE exit strategy trial balloons into the market to see how quickly they get shot down.
The latest exit strategy that has been gaining traction is the idea of "tapering" QE asset purchases so that there isn't a sudden halt to supply of money flowing from the Fed into the Treasury and MBS markets. The markets seem to be pretty sanguine about the tapering idea, although there has been no specific suggestion on timing.
Instead, the markets have been concentrating on how the Fed will get rid of all of the assets it has accumulated on its balance sheet during the QE program.
When Ben Bernanke testified before Congress Tuesday and Wednesday, he staunchly defended his easy- money policies like quantitative easing, or "QE Forever."
"We do not see the potential costs of the increased risk-taking in some financial markets as outweighing the benefits of promoting a stronger economic recovery," the Federal Reserve chairman said.
Bernanke added the central bank takes "very seriously" the excessive risk-taking its dovish policies could provoke and is watching markets carefully.
He maintained that the bank's accommodative monetary policy has "supported real growth in employment and kept inflation close to our target [2%]."
But some Fed officials are growing concerned about quantitative easing - the Fed's purchases of $85 billion in securities a month - and believe it would be prudent to slow or stop the buying well before the end of 2013. Esther George, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, is one of the biggest hawks in the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) this year, citing unease about economic stability and inflation.
"While I share the objectives [of the FOMC]," George said in a Feb. 12 speech at the University of Nebraska Omaha, "I dissented because of possible risks and the possible costs of these policies exceeding their benefits...While I have agreed with keeping rates low to support this recovery, I know keeping interest rates near zero has its own consequences."
Despite the increasingly anxious sentiment, as long as Bernanke remains at the helm, QE Forever will be the policy. Here's why.
The two-day Ben Bernanke testimony before Congress continues today (Wednesday) as the U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman faces the House Financial Services Committee. Members will grill Bernanke for more information on the Fed's exit strategy from quantitative easing (QE) and its easy money policy.
While Bernanke did admit yesterday to the Senate Banking Committee that "there's no risk-free approach" to unwinding the $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program, he shed little light on how the QE measures would end.
In fact, Bernanke's vague answer to Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL, when asked how the Fed will deleverage the balance sheet, was this: "In terms of exiting from our balance sheet... a couple of years ago we put out a plan; we have a set of tools. I think we have belts, suspenders - two pairs of suspenders. I think we have the technical means to unwind at the appropriate time; of course picking the exact moment to do, of course, is always difficult."
The buying is expected to continue until the Fed sees the unemployment rate fall to at least 6.5%, but Fed critics are concerned about the nearly $3 trillion balance sheet Bernanke has built up already.
Uncontrolled government spending could force the Fed to monetize the government's debt, creating runaway inflation, former Federal Reserve Governor Frederic Mishkin warned in a report.
If these circumstances were to occur, the Fed would be unable to do much, if anything, to control inflation, Mishkin said in the report, presented at a conference at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
In that case, Mishkin and his co-authors, David Greenlaw, James Hamilton and Peter Hooper, argue that the result could be "a flight from the dollar," according to a summary of the report by noted Fed-watcher Steven K. Beckner writing for MNI.
The report states, "Countries with high debt loads are vulnerable to an adverse feedback loop in which doubts by lenders lead to higher sovereign interest rates, which in turn make the debt problems more severe ... Countries with debt above 80% of GDP and persistent current-account deficits are vulnerable to a rapid fiscal deterioration as a result of these tipping-point dynamics."
The authors of the report estimate U.S. net debt, excluding debt held by the Social Security Trust Fund, at about 80% of GDP in 2011, double what it was a few years before. To make matters worse, the United States runs a persistent current account deficit, which is funded by borrowing from other countries.
This puts the U.S. in a worse spot than Japan which, although its debt is much higher as a percentage of GDP, has a large current account surplus and a high savings rate.
Equity markets around the world Wednesday expressed their distaste for the possible end of the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing (QE) policy. Share prices tumbled from New York to Tokyo. Here's what every investor needs to know.
The financial world was shocked this month by a demand from Germany's Bundesbank to repatriate a large portion of its gold reserves held abroad.
By 2020, Germany wants 50% of its total gold reserves back in Frankfurt - including 300 tons from the Federal Reserve.
The Bundesbank's announcement comes just three months after the Fed refused to submit to an audit of its holdings on Germany's behalf. One cannot help but wonder if the refusal triggered the demand.
Either way, Germany appears to be waking up to a reality for which central banks around the world have been preparing: the dollar is no longer the world's safe-haven asset and the US government is no longer a trustworthy banker for foreign nations.
It looks like their fears are well-grounded, given the Fed's seeming inability to return what is legally Germany's gold in a timely manner. Germany is a developed and powerful nation with the second largest gold reserves in the world.
If they can't rely on Washington to keep its promises, who can?
Investors will be looking to the Federal Reserve Wednesday for clues about how long it might continue its bond-buying program aimed at pushing interest rates down.
The Federal Open Market Committee is expected to release a policy statement at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, the second day of its two-day meeting.
In keeping with a practice it began last January, the first meeting of the new year will highlight the FOMC's long-term goals and monetary policy.
The Central Bank likely will reiterate the goal it has maintained all of last year: boosting the stagnant U.S. economy.The Fed's first meeting of 2013 comes after an extraordinarily busy year, capped by two key moves in December.
That's when the Fed said it would continue spending $85 billion a month on bond purchases to keep interest rates low. At the same time, the Fed set unemployment and inflation "thresholds" instead of a date when the central bank expected to be able to raise interest rates.
Amid all of the hoopla over the Standard & Poor's 500 Index touching 1,500 on Friday, it seems few people noticed that the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds has risen to within a couple of basis points of 2%. That is nearly 30 basis points higher than it was one month ago and 10 basis points higher than one year ago.
It seems as if the bond market is beginning to price in higher inflation at the long end of the yield curve, and that is something that has got to be worrying the Fed.
Successive rounds of quantitative easing (QE) have added a lot of liquidity to the U.S. economy and this has been repeated globally with massive amounts of liquidity being pumped into the market by the Bank of Japan (BOJ), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of England (BOE).
The Bank of Japan has committed itself to further aggressive easing under pressure from the newly elected government headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Even if BOJ Governor Masaaki Shirakawa has any second thoughts about additional easing, he will keep them to himself.
Minting a trillion-dollar platinum coin to pay our debts may seem ridiculous. But in fact, our government has done the same thing for the past five years, creating more than $1 trillion out of thin air each year.
After four years of quantitative easing programs, including QE3 just last fall, U.S. Federal Reserve officials have started voicing doubts about its effectiveness and concerns that it is distorting the markets.
And it's not just the Fed's hawks, such as Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher and Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser, speaking out against the bond-buying extravaganza.
Doves like Atlanta's Dennis Lockhart and moderates like Kansas City's Esther George have expressed concerns about QE3 as well.
"I do think the growth of the Fed's balance sheet could have longer-term consequences that are worrisome. While I've supported these policy decisions to date, I acknowledge legitimate concerns," Lockhart said in a speech in Atlanta on Monday.
According to the minutes of the December Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, several members "thought that it would probably be appropriate to slow or to stop purchases well before the end of 2013, citing concerns about financial stability or the size of the balance sheet."
If in fact sentiment within the FOMC is turning against QE3, then the easy money spigot that has helped fuel the stock market and other investments could be switched off sooner than most expected, which could have a sharp impact on the markets.
It was conceived in 1910 and constructed for the benefit of the private bankers who control it. Congress blessed the scheme in 1913 with passage of the Federal Reserve Act.
These days the Fed doesn't just backstop America's too-big-to-fail banks. It has expanded its doctrine of socializing banking losses globally.
The Fed helped bail out private businesses, foreign big banks and central banks in Europe and Japan in the credit crisis of 2008 and is the model for the European Central Bank, as well as the ECB's primary backstop.
To understand how the Fed gets taxpayers around the world to pay the losses its member banks routinely incur, let's pull back the curtain on the Fed and explain how it operates.
Here's What the Fed Really DoesBanks lend money and sometimes they don't get paid back. That's not a problem if it doesn't happen too often and if profits from other loans and investments cover the loan losses.
But since banks have gotten really big and have to make big loans (due to economies of scale and return on capital expectations) they need big borrowers. There are no bigger borrowers on the planet than governments, and that's where a lot of banks are lending.
Of course, governments aren't immune to over-borrowing and insolvency.
All the big banks that lent to banks in countries now in financial straits continue to lend to them because if they don't they won't get paid back what they are owed. Banks would fail from a cascade of losses and would either have to be bailed out or shut down.
That's where the Federal Reserve comes in.
They're winging it.
In a talk before a Harvard Club audience, Fisher presented a candid assessment about all the levers the Fed has been pulling in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. And that includes the recently announced QE3.
"Nobody really knows what will work to get the economy back on course. And nobody-in fact, no central bank anywhere on the planet-has the experience of successfully navigating a return home from the place in which we now find ourselves. No central bank-not, at least, the Federal Reserve-has ever been on this cruise before."
I don't know about you, but the idea that four years and trillions of dollars into this quantitative easing voyage we're still sailing without a compass isn't just appalling.
Yet this ship of fools sails on.
The problem is, Fisher is right: QE3 won't work. QE1 and QE2 didn't fix this mess. Nor will QE4, QE5, onwards to infinity.
What's more, there's a cottage industry of pundits and consultants who'll agree.
Trouble is, just like Fisher and his colleagues at the Fed, none of them can tell you why it won't work.
That's what we're going to do here today.
We'll start by giving you the lowdown on how this nation's central bankers view "Quantitative Easing." Then we'll show you how the Fed thinks QE is supposed to work.
Finally, we'll punch some (actually, many) holes in in the Fed's hull by discussing why it's not working.
We'll even demonstrate what could still be done to fix this wretched mess.
America's savers, many of whom are retired or nearing retirement, would beg to differ.
You see, low rates at the Fed - which has pledged to keep its interest rates near zero at least through 2015 - means low rates on conventional savings vehicles like bank accounts, certificates of deposit, and money market funds.
Those rates affect $10 trillion in savings-like products, costing savers billions of dollars.
For example, if a saver had $100 in a savings account in 2008 that paid 0.35% interest, she'd have just $102 today. But with inflation, $100 worth of goods in 2008 now costs $107.
That's a loss of 5% in four years, the sort of math that eats away at a retiree's standard of living.
And the rates of 2008 look fantastic compared to what's available now.
The Fed's actions have pushed down interest rates to microscopic levels. The average savings account interest rate has fallen one-third in the last year alone, to 0.08%.
The average yield on five-year CDs last month dropped below 1% for the first time ever. Back in 2007, five-year CDs provided a yield of 4%.
And yet in a speech he gave at the Economic Club of Indiana on Monday, Bernanke said his policies are helping savers.
That's because Bernanke pledged on Sept. 13 that QE3 -unlike the stimulus programs before it - will continue for an unlimited timeframe.
QE3 has already led to a rally in commodity prices, like the previous Fed stimulus actions.
But this time the inflationary surge will get much, much worse.
"If the governments and central bankers continue to flood the world with cheap money, it has to translate into some kind of inflation," Money Morning Global Investing Strategist Martin Hutchinson recently explained. "We started with asset inflation. But my sense is that the transition from asset inflation to consumer inflation will happen very quickly."
With median income levels at averages not seen since the mid-90s, U.S. households need to prepare their savings to survive higher prices - especially while interest rates remain near zero.
Unfortunately, it appears this environment is exactly what Ben Bernanke has in mind.
"Not only will they tolerate higher inflation, not only will they wish for higher inflation, but they actually may target higher inflation," PIMCO CEO Mohamed El-Erian told CNBC ofthe Fed. "This is a historical bet that our kids will be reading about in history books."
Here's what Bernanke has planned.