The Fed is currently planning a one trillion dollar quantitative easing program. As Jonathon Trugman of the NY Post reports:
The Fed will likely undertake a very large quantitative easing program sooner rather than later, if the economic data doesn’t get markedly better in the very near future.
This QE2 will need to be far more aggressive than most expect, for there is not going to be a QE3. It is essentially the last chance the Fed has. It will want to eradicate any doubt about its ability to work; it is, in essence, the nuclear option.
The measure could be as much as $750 billion to $1.5 trillion. And expect far more aggressive purchases than in QE1.
Mortgage-backed securities, the root cause of the economic collapse, will be the cornerstone of the purchases, thereby allowing a possible 10 percent to 15 percent increase in home prices, which would do wonders for the flat-lined economy.
Credit card-backed paper will be on the tab as well as some auto loans to keep the administration happy.
Sadly, with credit still unavailable to the “middle class” due primarily to poor fiscal policy and economic leadership, the Fed will have to dramatically increase the money supply in order to spur spending. It will work, but it’s going to be complicated.
So Mr. Trugman believes this quantitative easing will work, but that it has to be huge to spur spending. He fails to ask the simple question: will such an aggressive program be worth the benefit?
But others are arguing that the quantitative easing will have no effect at all. Marketwatch reports:
A new round of Federal Reserve purchases of bonds would have little impact on markets or the economy, Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said in a speech on Wednesday.
Speaking in London, Kocherlakota on Wednesday outlined several reasons why buying government bonds wouldn’t make a major impact. For one, banks already have nearly $1 trillion in excess reserves. “QE gives them new licenses to create money, but I do not see why they would suddenly start to use the new ones if they weren’t using the old ones,” he said, according to a copy of the text he was due to deliver.
As to the first round of quantitative easing by the Fed, Kocherlakota cited an academic study showing that the $1.5 trillion purchase of agency debt, agency mortgage-backed securities and Treasuries by the Fed between Jan. 2009 and March 2010 reduced the term premium on 10-year Treasurys relative to 2-year Treasurys by about 40 to 80 basis points, which in turn led to a slightly smaller fall in the term premia of corporate bonds.
Kocherlakota estimates a new round of QE would have a more muted effect, because financial markets are functioning much better than they were in early 2009. “As a result, the relevant spreads are lower, and I suspect that it will be somewhat more challenging for the Fed to impact them,” he said.
So Trugman says this aggressive quantitative easing will work, but Kocherlakota says it won’t. In reality, who knows? The real problem is that there is so little discussion of the risks and costs involed. Marketwatch explains the risk in one sentence:
Kocherlakota also said that the impact of quantitative easing is to shift the interest rate risk on bonds from investors to taxpayers.
So the real impact of this quantitative easing will be to socialize risk. The Fed risks creating further moral hazard. The Fed risks producing interest rates that are too low, which will create more bubbles. The Fed is going to create distortions in the market system. But despite these risks, there is no guarantee of success.
I applaud Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota’s efforts to restore reason and common sense to our ineffective and inefficient monetary policy.