Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.UK House Prices Momentum Crash Threatens Mini Bear Market 2017 - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Perfect Storm - This Fourth Turning has Over a Decade of Continuous Storms to Come - James_Quinn
3.UK House Prices Momentum Crash Warns of 2017 Bear Market - Video - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Billionaire Investors Backing A Marijuana Boom In 2017 - OilPrice_Com
5.Emerging Markets & Basic Materials Stocks Breaking Out Together - Rambus_Chartology
6.Global Currency Reserve At Risk - Jim_Willie_CB
7.Gold and Silver: Your Stomach Is Probably Wrenching Right Now - The_Gold_Report
8.Warning: The Fed Is Preparing to Crash the Financial System Again - Graham_Summers
9.Basic Materials and Commodities Analysis and Trend Forecasts - Rambus_Chartology
10.Discover Why A Major American Revolution Is Brewing - Harry_Dent
Last 7 days
The Stock Market Guns of August, Trade Set-Up & Removing your Rose Tinted Glasses - 16th Aug 17
Stocks, Bonds, Interest Rates, and Serbia, Camp Kotok 2017 - 16th Aug 17
U.S. Stock Market: Sunrise ... Sunset - 16th Aug 17
The Next Tech Crash Could Delay Your Retirement by a Decade - 15th Aug 17
Gold and Silver Precious Metals Nearing Breakout - 15th Aug 17
North Korea Showdown: Pivotal Market Turning Point - 15th Aug 17
Tech Stocks DOT COM Bubble Do-Over? - 14th Aug 17
Deep State Conspiracy or Chaos - 14th Aug 17
From the Trans-Atlantic Axis and the Trans-Asian Axis - 14th Aug 17
Stock Market Intermediate Correction Underway - 14th Aug 17
The Islamic State Jihadi Pivot to Asia - 13th Aug 17
Potential Pivots Upcoming for Stocks and Gold - 13th Aug 17
North Korean Chinese Proxy vs US Military Empire Trending Towards Nuclear War! - 12th Aug 17
Gold Stocks Coiled Spring - 12th Aug 17
Neil Howe: The Amazon-Walmart Rivalry Will Determine the Future of Retail - 12th Aug 17
How to Alton Towers Half Price Discount Entry 2017 and 2018, Any Time, No Pre-Booking! - 12th Aug 17
Top 3 Technical Trading Tools Part 2: Relative Strength Index (RSI) - 11th Aug 17
What Makes Women Better Investors - 11th Aug 17
Crude Oil Price Precious Metals Link in August - 11th Aug 17
Influencer Marketing Predictions All Businesses Should Take Into Account - 11th Aug 17
Really Bad Ideas - Government Debt Isn’t Actually Debt - 10th Aug 17
Gold Sees Safe Haven Gains On Trump “Fire and Fury” Threat - 9th Aug 17
Why Is The Stock Market Not Trading On Fundamentals Lately? - 9th Aug 17
USD/CAD - Can We Trust This Breakout? - 9th Aug 17
New Monthly Rebate to Help Reduce Your Trading Costs - 9th Aug 17
Stock Market Divergences Are Now Appearing! - 9th Aug 17
Is Inflation an issue or did the Fed Mess Up? - 8th Aug 17
Top 3 Technical Trading Tools Part 1: Japanese Candlesticks - 8th Aug 17
Researchers Find $10 Billion Hidden Treasure In A Dead Volcano - 8th Aug 17
What Happened to Thousands of Sheffield's Street Trees 2017 - Fellings Documentary - 8th Aug 17
Solar, Bubble, Banks, War, and Legal Tender: Five Reasons Why You Should Buy Silver Now - 7th Aug 17
CRASH - If Some People Do It, Nothing Bad Happens, But If Everyone Does It, All Hell Breaks Loose - 7th Aug 17
Gold and Silver : The Battle for Control - 7th Aug 17
Precious Metals Sector is on Major Buy Signal - 7th Aug 17
Stock Market - Has Time Run Out? - 7th Aug 17
Get Ready for an Historic Upside Gold and Silver Run - 7th Aug 17
BOOM! Bitcoin Rockets To New All-Time High As Cryptocurrencies Surge Higher! - 7th Aug 17
U.S. Dollar: This Crash Signals the End - 6th Aug 17
Predicting The Price Of Gold Is A Fool’s Game - 6th Aug 17
Asda Sales Collapse and Profits Crash! UK Retailer Sector Crisis 2017 - 6th Aug 17

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

3 Videos + 8 Charts = Opportunities You Need to See - Free

Bernanke's $4 Trillion Quantitative Easing Dilemma

Interest-Rates / Quantitative Easing Oct 26, 2010 - 10:16 AM GMT

By: Mike_Whitney

Interest-Rates

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleBen Bernanke is in a real fix. His quantitative easing (QE) program is designed to boost stock prices, lower bond yields, and weaken the dollar.

But the market has already priced all that in, so when he announces the start of the program on November 3, there's a good chance that things will either stay the same or head in the opposite direction. That's bad for Bernanke. Just imagine if the dollar strengthens just as the Fed chairman begins buying-up Treasuries to push the dollar down. He'll look pretty foolish. But that could happen because the dollar has already slipped nearly 7% since August and is overdue for a rebound.


So, what should he do? Should he go ahead and launch his program anyway knowing it could backfire and further damage his credibility or scrap the whole deal and move on to Plan B?

The truth is, he has no choice. If he doesn't follow through now, investors will accuse him of "withdrawing liquidity" and send the market into a nosedive. So, he has to go forward and let the chips fall where they may. If QE2 turns out to be a bust, so be it.

A new report from Goldman Sach's economist Jan Hatzius figures that "the Fed will need to print $4 trillion...to close the Taylor gap." (zero hedge) That means it will take roughly $4 trillion for QE to do what it's supposed to do. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's estimates are even higher. He thinks it will take $8 to 10 trillion of QE to push down long-term rates enough to sustain the recovery. Of course, no one is even considering expanding the Fed's balance sheet by that amount because it would put the central bank's future at risk and might not work anyway. Instead, Bernanke plans to take baby steps, purchasing $200 to $300 billion in Treasuries at a time, hoping that the smaller amounts buoy stocks and increase investment in the real economy. In other words, QE2 is not a really serious commitment of resources to address deflationary pressures, excess capacity or high unemployment at all. It's more like giving aspirin to a cancer patient. There may some temporary relief, but the overall effects will be negligible.

That's not to say that the Fed isn't a powerful institution. It is. The Fed controls short-term interest rates and short-term rates can either stimulate growth or send the economy into a tailspin. They can guide the economy to years of productivity and prosperity or generate gigantic speculative bubbles that end in disaster. But, in a liquidity trap--when interest rates are stuck at zero—monetary policy is largely ineffective so the Fed is dead-in-the-water. It doesn't matter how cheap money is when people aren't borrowing. And, people aren't borrowing because they're broke. The Fed doesn't have the ability to change that. Bernanke may wish he was "Helicopter Ben" and could drop bundles of greenbacks over America, but the truth is, only congress has that power and they're not taking advantage of it. They're more worried about deficits.

So, QE won't succeed because it doesn't address the real issue, which is demand. In theory, when the Fed buys bonds, it pushes investors into riskier assets, like stocks. That, in turn, inflates equities prices which (supposedly) triggers additional hiring and lowers unemployment. It's a persuasive theory, but it won't work. Here's an excerpt from an article in the Wall Street Journal which explains why:

"While more quantitative easing will help to keep interest rates low, primary dealer banks aren't fully convinced that the move will prove to be the U.S. economy's knight in shining armor.

"It may help to lower rates temporarily," said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist and managing director of the fixed-income division at Jefferies & Co. in New York, "but is unlikely to have a significant beneficial effect on the economy."

That is because such a program won't ease credit conditions for small businesses that are dependent on banks for lending, he said, nor will it lower borrowing costs for homeowners who are unable to refinance their mortgages because home prices have fallen." (No Fix in Quantitative Easing, Deborah Lynn Blumberg, Wall Street Journal)

So, if QE doesn't help small businesses (which create most of the country's new jobs) or homeowners, than how can it lower unemployment, trim excess capacity, or increase aggregate demand? It can't. At best, it will merely boost asset prices and create more bank reserves while the real economy continues to languish in a near-Depression.

Naturally, the prospect of the Fed adding trillions of dollars to the money supply has trading partners in a panic forcing some to regulate capital inflows and prepare for a savage round of competitive devaluation. At this weekend's meeting of the G-20 in Gyeongju, South Korea, German finance minister, Rainer Brüderle lashed out at the Fed's QE program saying, “Excessive, permanent money creation in my opinion is an indirect manipulation of an exchange rate.” The irony of the Brüderle's remarks were lost on Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner who used the meetings to point the finger at China and to make his case for "numerical limits" on current account balances. This is from Bloomberg:

"Seeking to find common ground on currency valuation, officials agreed to “move toward more market-determined exchange rate systems that reflect underlying economic fundamentals.” And they pledged to “refrain from competitive devaluation of currencies” — an effort to calm anxiety over a wave of protectionism in which countries would weaken their currencies to bolster their own exports."

It makes you wonder how the attendees could listen to Geithner's disingenuous blather knowing that the Fed is planning to print up hundreds of billions of dollars that could wreak havoc in the currency markets?

Even so, Geithner is right to be worried about the widening trade deficits. The massive imbalances inevitably lead to crises as they did when Lehman defaulted and global trade plummeted. In the last decade, US exports to China have totaled just $417 billion while Chinese imports have soared to $2,160 billion. Much of China's earnings have been recycled into US Treasuries to keep the price of their currency artificially low while they add to their $2.6 trillion in reserves. This gives them an unfair advantage in competing head-to-head with better-paid US workers.

In August, the trade gap widened more than analysts had predicted to $46 billion putting more pressure on the Fed to weaken the dollar so that more US jobs are not lost to foreign competitors and so that monetary stimulus (designed to kickstart the US economy) is not siphoned off via the trade deficit.

The bottom line: Economic recovery is impossible unless exchange rate issues are resolved. Bernanke may think that QE2 will scare China into reversing its current policy (and agree to move toward more market-oriented exchange rate system) but it's just as likely that Beijing will follow the dollar downward buying up even more US Treasuries and undermining any hope for a rebound in the US. That means that congress must get involved and threaten to levy import duties and tariffs on China if they refuse to let their currency appreciate.

Congress also needs to acknowledge the limitations of monetary policy. QE is not the right tool for dealing with a "balance sheet recession". (when households are reducing their debts and slashing spending) A second round of fiscal stimulus is the only way to lower unemployment, increase spending, and lay the groundwork for a sustainable recovery.

By Mike Whitney

Email: fergiewhitney@msn.com

Mike is a well respected freelance writer living in Washington state, interested in politics and economics from a libertarian perspective.

© 2010 Copyright Mike Whitney - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

Mike Whitney Archive

© 2005-2017 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Catching a Falling Financial Knife