As expected, the Fed announced a “modest” $600 billion second round of Quantitative Easing. Estimates rated as high as $2 trillion.
Please consider the Fed’s Statement Regarding Purchases of Treasury Securities
On November 3, 2010, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) decided to expand the Federal Reserve’s holdings of securities in the System Open Market Account (SOMA) to promote a stronger pace of economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with its mandate. In particular, the FOMC directed the Open Market Trading Desk (the Desk) at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to purchase an additional $600 billion of longer-term Treasury securities by the end of the second quarter of 2011.
The FOMC also directed the Desk to continue to reinvest principal payments from agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities into longer-term Treasury securities. Based on current estimates, the Desk expects to reinvest $250 to $300 billion over the same period, though the realized amount of reinvestment will depend on the evolution of actual principal payments.
Taken together, the Desk anticipates conducting $850 to $900 billion of purchases of longer-term Treasury securities through the end of the second quarter. This would result in an average purchase pace of roughly $110 billion per month, representing about $75 billion per month associated with additional purchases and roughly $35 billion per month associated with reinvestment purchases.
The Fed is going to be stuck with this garbage on its balance sheet for a long time as the following table shows.
That table explains the Fed’s exit plan: None.
The Fed will hold 29% of the garbage it buys for at least 7 years. The Fed may hold all of it to duration. Don’t worry, the Fed does not have to mark-to-market any of these holdings, regardless of what happens to interest rates.
MarketWatch reports Fed to buy $600 billion in bonds
The Federal Reserve pledged on Wednesday to start a controversial new billion bond-buying spree to rescue the economy from its current doldrums.
The Fed said it would buy up to $600 billion in long-term Treasurys until the end of June 2011, about $75 billion this month, in a strategy called quantitative easing
This is the second time the Fed has engaged in quantitative easing, as it snapped up $1.7 trillion in mostly housing-related assets December 2008 and March 2010.
The Fed purchases are designed to bring down yields on government bonds believing that lower rates could always give the recovery a boost.
More broadly, the Fed wants to prompt private businesses and investors to begin to act with more confidence and help get the economy’s juices flowing.
“They are trying to break through the fear,” said J.P. Morgan Chase economist James Glassman.
Doubts persist about whether the plan will work, but many feel the Fed had little choice but to act.
Doubts? What Doubts?
There is little doubt, at least in this corner, that the plan cannot possibly work. Corporate borrowing costs are the lowest in history and that hasn’t spurred hiring. Will another quarter of a point lower matter? Will QEII even lower rates that much?
Simple explanations as to why QEII will fail are best: “Money’s Already Quite Cheap”
With mortgage interest rates at all time lows, is this supposed to help housing? Why?
It is sad but true economic thinking these days that the “Fed had to do Something”. Why does it make sense to do something, just for the sake of doing, when it should be crystal clear that doing just adds to problems down the road.
Fed Micromanaged Economy to Oblivion
The Fed has clearly micromanaged this economy to oblivion. Greenspan’s experiment short-circuited the 2001 recession but the expense was the biggest housing bubble in the history of the world, not just in the US, but globally.
A global recession soon followed.
Now on misguided calls to “do something” the Fed is blowing a bubble in commodities that cannot possibly help margin strapped small businesses.
An excerpt from $30 Billion Offer No One Wants – Small Businesses Hit by Deflation will show why.
NFIB Small Business Trends
Inquiring minds are taking a look at NFIB Small Business Trends for September.
The weak economy continued to put downward pressure on prices. Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners raising prices was a negative eight percent, a four point increase from July. August is the 21st consecutive month in which more owners reported cutting average selling prices that raising them.
The Index has been below 93 every month since January 2008 (32 months), and below 90 for 25 of those months, all readings typical of a weak or recession-mired economy.
Inflation? Not a threat. Far more owners have cut prices than raised them for 21 months in a row. Deflation? It certainly feels that way to a quarter of the owners reporting price declines for the goods and services they produce and sell.
QEII, QEIII, QEIV, QEV
How many more rounds of QE will there be before Bernanke gets the message? 2? 3? 4? Is Bernanke capable of getting any message short of a bond market revolt?
Fed Uncertainty Principle
The Fed Uncertainty Principle corollaries #2 and #3 provide the answer.
Corollary Number Two: The government/quasi-government body most responsible for creating this mess (the Fed), will attempt a big power grab, purportedly to fix whatever problems it creates. The bigger the mess it creates, the more power it will attempt to grab. Over time this leads to dangerously concentrated power into the hands of those who have already proven they do not know what they are doing.
Corollary Number Three:
Don’t expect the Fed to learn from past mistakes. Instead, expect the Fed to repeat them with bigger and bigger doses of exactly what created the initial problem.
Expect No Miracles
Unless a miracle occurs, consider QEII as a down payment. Meanwhile the important fact right now is benefits are set to expire on 2 million collecting extended unemployment benefits.
Lower interest rates (assuming that even happens) will not help those 2 million one iota.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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