The Federal Reserve has given the markets all it hoped for and more: unlimited quantitative easing (QE3), in the form of $40bn a month of mortgage bond purchases, an extension into 2015 of the zero-rate forecast, and a change in the reaction function to say the Fed won’t raise rates until an economic recovery is well under way.
Is this Ben Bernanke’s final shot? His own words suggest not. Here’s a handy checklist of what he’s done so far, and what could be to come, as set out in his 2002 speech on how to fight deflation. These are in the order he set them out in the speech, rather than the order in which they’ve been tried so far. Read more
It may not be the most urgent problem facing the European Central Bank, but as Mario Draghi slaves away on his plan to save the euro – missing out on the hospitality of the US Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole symposium – one goal must be to find a snappy name.
Central bankers are terrible at it, but central bank watchers quickly converted the dull “quantitative easing” from the Fed and Bank of England into QE and then QE2 (and there’s an outside chance of QE3 being hinted at in the US this Friday). Read more
Humphrey-Hawkins testimony is not always a non-event. Six years ago, Ben Bernanke used his first Humphrey-Hawkins testimony to signal to the market that the steady rise in the Fed Funds target rate was going to end at 5.25 per cent. That seems an impossibly long time ago now, as does the last big surge in the S&P 500 during the “fool’s rally” of the mid-naughties, which that testimony provoked.
Today’s testimony, however, does indeed appear to have been a non-event, as accurately predicted by Mike Mackenzie, deputising for James Mackintosh, in Monday’s Short View:
The line in his testimony that appears to have attracted most attention is that the Fed “is prepared to take further action as appropriate to promote a stronger economic recovery” – it is hard to see how he could possibly have said the opposite. Judging by Twitter, there is also interest in his comment that QE has been “effective” so far but should not be used “lightly”. It is hard to disagree. Some might disagree about the “effectiveness” line, but successive waves of QE have at least succeeded in holding up asset prices and buying time for US banks, which was probably the main intent. Read more