Why does everyone think the Fed will ride to the rescue?

I have consistently warned for the past few months that the Fed would pause before rushing into QE3. I reiterated this yesterday. Yet, somehow people came away from Ben Bernanke’s testimony before Congress yesterday thinking the Fed was going to crank up the QE3 keyboard strokes. It’s not going to happen.

Look at Bernanke’s prepared remarks:

On the one hand, the possibility remains that the recent economic weakness may prove more persistent than expected and that deflationary risks might reemerge, implying a need for additional policy support. Even with the federal funds rate close to zero, we have a number of ways in which we could act to ease financial conditions further. One option would be to provide more explicit guidance about the period over which the federal funds rate and the balance sheet would remain at their current levels. Another approach would be to initiate more securities purchases or to increase the average maturity of our holdings. The Federal Reserve could also reduce the 25 basis point rate of interest it pays to banks on their reserves, thereby putting downward pressure on short-term rates more generally. Of course, our experience with these policies remains relatively limited, and employing them would entail potential risks and costs. However, prudent planning requires that we evaluate the efficacy of these and other potential alternatives for deploying additional stimulus if conditions warrant.

On the other hand, the economy could evolve in a way that would warrant a move toward less-accommodative policy. Accordingly, the Committee has been giving careful consideration to the elements of its exit strategy, and, as reported in the minutes of the June FOMC meeting, it has reached a broad consensus about the sequence of steps that it expects to follow when the normalization of policy becomes appropriate. In brief, when economic conditions warrant, the Committee would begin the normalization process by ceasing the reinvestment of principal payments on its securities, thereby allowing the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet to begin shrinking. At the same time or sometime thereafter, the Committee would modify the forward guidance in its statement. Subsequent steps would include the initiation of temporary reserve-draining operations and, when conditions warrant, increases in the federal funds rate target. From that point on, changing the level or range of the federal funds rate target would be our primary means of adjusting the stance of monetary policy in response to economic developments.

Translation: the Fed will pause to assess the economy before doing anything else. If economic growth in the U.S. does not falter in the second half of 2011, the Fed will look to drain excess reserves from the system as preparation for an interest rate hike at some unforeseeable future date.

There is immense pressure on the Fed from within as well as politically to refrain from more unconventional policy. The economy will weaken significantly before the Fed moves against it – and only then because of vocal outcries for more policy stimulus.

Tim Duy sees this as well – and he wants more from the Fed. Bottom line: there will be no stimulus unless the economy and/or asset markets deteriorate further.

  1. James says

    I Couldn’t agree with this post more. I think if you look at inflation breakeven’s, they need to be a lot lower for QE3 to happen. To me this means that the price of commodities such as crude, gasoline and copper need to fall significantly before QE3 happens, and yet everyone bought commodities the past two days so the market obviously thinks I’m wrong

    1. Edward Harrison says

      Some people get it now though. When Fisher started talking, people realised that there was considerable dissent inside the Fed. Fisher went along with QE2 but I believe he would not vote for QE3 unless we see the kinds of conditions you point to:


  2. Dave Holden says


    1 Wishful thinking.

    2. The Fed has a history of “We need to do something, this is something”.

    3. Benanke is economically clueless.

    All that said I agree with you mainly because the “politics” are at present against it.

  3. Chaos says

    There will be deflation, then there will be clueless speculative-stimulus (aka QE).

    Maybe some day they get it right and get that what is needed is fiscal stimulus (tax cuts and spending). But so much time of indoctrination found its way into Joe Sixpack head.

    Where are still in Hoover time, with all the prising; FDR time has not come yet because the world hadn’t a depression yet, so until clueless politicians, economists and policy makers don’t cause one, we will continue all this “government debts can’t be paid!” and “save the banks!” idiocy.

    At some point the situation will blow up, like is already happening in Greece. If it’s too late there will be revolution even.

  4. David Lazarus says

    I cannot see the US economy recovering sufficiently. Primarily because of the jobs crisis, though political paralysis is a huge factor. Asset prices will ultimately suffer. With a weak jobs market the housing markets will suffer. With consumer spending very weak eventually domestic businesses will start to suffer. So QE will happen as Congress will do nothing. I cannot see QE3 working any better than QE1 or QE2.

Comments are closed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More