Tag Archives: Quantitative Easing

The Real Value of Gold

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You don’t have to be an expert to realize something just isn’t right in the economic world! Peter Schiff and GATA’s Bill Murphy discuss Quantitative Easing, inflation, and the real value of gold!

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Quantitive Pain

Janet Yellen - The Face of Pain
Janet Yellen - The Face of Pain

Janet Yellen – The Face of Pain

Ben Bernanke out, Janet Yellen in. But, don’t worry, the same failed fiscal policy will continue chugging along.

For those playing catchup, since 2008 the Fed has been using a practice called “Quantitative Easing” or QE. Since the interest rates have already been at or near 0%, it’s the Fed’s way of inflating the money supply. The theory goes that by buying financial assets, businesses will have access to easy credit and easy cash, then they’ll open factories, hire employees, and that will get the economy going again.

As it happens, there are two big problems with this plan: the capital is straight out of Wonderland, and everyone knows it.

When the Federal Reserve prints cash to buy assets, business hasn’t improved, there’s no extra demand needing to fill, and there’s no reliable projection to indicate it’s going to get better anytime soon. No decent businessperson is going to expand operations today, knowing they won’t have the magic money tomorrow. In other words, no one is going to take on additional liabilities without confidence they’ll have the revenue to cover them tomorrow.

Much to the contrary, it’s a very dangerous fiscal policy to follow, and one we’re all to familiar with.

When we throw good money after bad, we create an artificially large market: or, a bubble.The problem with bubbles is that they cannot be sustained forever. Already the Fed owns over $2 trillion worth of bonds and other financial assets under QE, but the Fed cannot continue to buy tens of billions of dollars worth of assets every month. The money runs out, and the bubble bursts.

Instead of the markets returning to their natural levels, investors will attempt to avoid losses and pull their cash out as well. The market contracts below its natural growth and the economy contracts. In other words, we go into recession.

This isn’t some big secret. Investors have been paying close attention to the Fed in the hopes of pulling out their cash before the QE fountain runs dry. Companies know it as well, and have been reluctant to grow, knowing the contraction which will eventually follow.

Instead of growing the economy, the Fed’s policy creates a bubble in financial markets which is not reflected in economic growth. Instead of investors being able to judge profits and growth based on customer demand, they play a game of beat-the-Fed, and businesses grow slower than they otherwise would.

Contrary to growing the economy, Quantitative Easing only slows recovery.

If you doubt it, just ask yourself why the Stock Market has hit record highs in 2013, yet unemployment remains at 7.3% and labor participation remains at a 35 year low.

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Dollar slides ahead of Fed meeting outcome

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the monetary policy-making body of the Federal Reserve, is meeting for the second time in so many days to determine what actions, if any, to take to help America’s flagging economy.

Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve are largely anticipated to institute another round of Quantitative Easing (QE3) as a means to stimulating the U.S. economy. The U.S. stock market is expecting that the Fed will act and the U.S. dollar indicates the same expectation.

The dollar is off ahead of the announcement as QE is the act of “printing money” and pumping it into the economy:

As the dollar suffered from expectations for QE – which would be equal to printing money and diluting the value of the currency – the euro stayed near four-month highs against the U.S. currency, helped by the signs the euro zone may be starting to get on top of its debt troubles.

Expected Fed actions include an estimated $500 billion in purchases of long term treasury notes. A move designed to lower interest rates in hopes of stimulating borrowing and investment.

91% of Chief Financial Officers polled said their firms would not change their spending if QE3 was able to lower interest rates by as much as a full point indicating that interest rates are not the economic inhibitor the Fed believes.

Campbell Harvey, a finance professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Busines, said that “there is stark evidence that QE3 would be a wasted effort.”

The dilution of the dollar would likely have further impact to every-day Americans. Everything from gas to heating fuel and groceries would become more expensive. As the government’s CPI inflation index doesn’t measure these items, no official inflation would be shown. Consumers will likely see their budgets squeezed from items the government sees fit to ignore.

The FOMC will hold a press conference today at 12:30am Eastern. The FOMC members will announce their decision at 2pm and chairman Ben Bernanke will hold his own conference at 2:30pm Eastern this afternoon.

QE3: Seriously?

Growth of the money supply due to quantitative easing

Quantitative Easing is simply the introduction of money into the economy by a central bank. It has been done twice during the current recession with no positive effects and Ben Bernanke’s Federal Reserve seems ready to launch version three – often referred to as QE3.

QE1

QE1 launched on November 25th, 2008 with a Federal Reserve initiated purchase of $500 Billion in mortgage-backed securities with the hope of lowering borrowing costs in order to stimulate the drowning housing market. The fed later bought several hundred billion dollars of securities from troubled entities such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Federal Home Loan banks.

By buying up assets from private institutions, it lowered the risk those institutions possessed and would theoretically lower the cost of borrowing money.

Finding asset purchases to not be doing enough, the Federal Reserve lowered the key interest rate to .25%.

More troubled-asset buyouts occurred through 2009 and the Fed started to aggressively buy Treasury notes.

QE1 lasted until the end of March 2010 and resulted in 30-year mortgage rates dropping from 6.33% in late 2008 to 5.23% at the end of Q1 2010. $1.25 trillion was invested in asset purchases by the Federal Reserve during QE1.

QE2

QE2 went from November 3rd 2010 to June 30th of 2011.

Bought $600 billion of longer term treasuries by selling off short-term agency assets.

Although some economists had expected the move to keep interest rates low, 30-year fixed mortgage rates actually climbed .5%.

The Maturity Extension Program (aka “Operation Twist”)

By the end of 2012, the Federal Reserve hopes to put downward pressure on long term interest rates by selling a portion of its sizable inventory of long term Treasury bonds in trade for shorter term notes. By selling the longer term notes, it is expected that prices for those bonds will increase, thereby decreasing the yield or interest on them. Operation twist is not quantitative easing as it adds no net money supply due to the trading of one security for another.

Operation Twist started in the fall of 2011 and offers both good and bad news. The bad news is that it doesn’t seem to be doing very much to help the economy. Long term interest rates are at historic lows and the economy is not accelerating. This again points to the fact that borrowing costs are not the major issue holding the economy back.

One thing of note is that the sell-off of long-term Treasuries is exactly opposite of the Fed move in QE2. QE2 was about economic stimulus by lowering risk. Twist is focused on affecting interest rates in order to encourage borrowing. Neither addresses the fundamental issues of over-regulation, over-taxation and a White House opposed to free markets.

QE1 / QE2 Results

The effect on the economy from QE1 and QE2 are heavily-debated. Many experts discuss the inflationary effect that pumping so much money into the economy has while others state that banks actually never turned around and lent the money – it was used to shore up their own reserves so that the financial system did not fundamentally collapse.

While interest rates are at their lowest in recorded history, the housing and commercial real estate markets have yet to see a bounce to the upside. The real estate bubble was caused by banks being forced to loan to those that could not afford it – not by high interest rates. Lowering interest rates didn’t make those folks any more able to take on a mortgage than they were 5 years ago.

Lowering interest rates should also help corporations get funding – if only they wanted it. Large companies are sitting on their money out of distrust of the current administration and oppressive regulation. Making it a tiny bit less expensive to borrow doesn’t allay those concerns. In a recent World Economic Forum report, exactly those concerns were listed as a major reason for downgrading the U.S. economy’s competitive ranking to #7 (from #1 in 2008).

For the experts that claim that the money supply didn’t grow to higher levels during QE1 and QE2.. here’s some real chart data for you. According to the experts at Shadowstats.com (chart right) the supply of currency and coin grew substantially during the months that quantitative easing was occurring. M1 is the measure  of money in circulation and the chart says it all.

The effect of a constantly increasing money supply is inevitably inflation. Defined as “a greater number of dollars searching for a diminished number of goods” inflation occurs due to the declining buying power each dollar represents. Our dollar has its value pinned to our Gross Domestic Product which has been growing at a much slower rate than M1. Price inflation is the only possible outcome.

QE3

Ben Bernanke and his cohorts at the Federal Reserve began meeting again today. The markets are anticipating another round of Treasury buys, asset buyouts and short to long term asset roll-overs to come out of the meeting. All of which is intended to bring long term interest rates down.

Should another round of quantitative easing (QE3) occur, it will certainly continue to inflate the price of non-bond assets and long-term bonds as more investors will walk away from the anemic yields on long term notes. Stocks will continue to see price increases despite a flagging economy which may slow private investment in the economy.

The money pumped into the economy will further increase M1 and decrease buying power for the average consumer. The inflation that all grocery shoppers, electricity users and gasoline buyers have been seeing will continue – even though the government’s measure (which leaves out food and fuel) will continue to show the success of QE with no ill effects.

The real question is why it’s being done? So far, QE has neither bouyed the economy nor re-invigorated it. The housing market is still in shambles and employment is unimproved. With only two months until the election and his chairmanship on the line if President Obama loses, Bernanke may be playing politics with the American economy.

Inflation expectations are for as much as a 5% peak consumer prices in the very near future As Tyler Durden of Zerohedge.com wrote:

CPI remains below 2% but there is a clear lag between the rise in market-implied inflation and it showing up in the unicorn-laden CPI prints – what this means is that given the hubris of the Fed yesterday,market expectations of inflation are inferring CPI could rise to over 5% within the next 3 to 6 months.