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The massive central bank QE-Infinity influence already seems to be waning just two weeks after ringleader Buzz Lightyear “To Infinity and Beyond” Bernanke inspired the latest asset price surge. While others either preceded (ECB) or quickly followed the Federal Reserve’s leadership in this area, there is little doubt that initiating the steps the FOMC took two weeks ago was easily the most extensive and extended (i.e. “…highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens…”) central bank commitment to massive liquidity expansion. That said, there is still the question of whether this will do much good with a broken ‘monetary policy transmission mechanism’ (i.e. the real root of economic weakness being in misguided fiscal and regulatory regimes.)
And beyond the sheer consideration that it may fail to influence the economy as expected, there are significant risks of not just that failure but of more general central bank authority dilution. That has been reviewed in this blog and our full research both previous and over the past two weeks. It includes the concerns of some very well respected regional Federal Reserve bank presidents and other economic observers, complaints from other countries this is nothing more than a protectionist, beggar-thy-neighbor ‘currency war’ strategy, and the degree to which (at least so far) the impact is as transitory as many of the skeptics had warned.
It seems that the anticipation of the Fed’s QE3 was much more influential than the actual fact. As we have noted recently, now that the central banks are ‘all in’ on this major liquidity expansion effort, the real risk is it may impugn their ability to effectively intervene in a future crisis. And that is where we draw the analogy with the old Pie in the Face comedy routine, which we will discuss below.
But first, review of another key factor is relevant: the degree to which the Fed becoming ‘the market’ in long-dated US bonds and agency debt is pernicious. Among the most consistent critics of the implementation of this policy has been Newedge Senior Director Larry McDonald. As he noted two weeks ago today (i.e. the day after the Fed QE3 announcement), “There’s a new hedge fund… and it’s the Fed.”
For quite a bit more on that and McDonald’s views on Spain, and that dysfunction in the mortgage securitization market and much else, click into the video clip of his appearance on the Fox business News ‘After the Bell’ show that Friday. It seems that events since then have borne out his assessment.
And if the Fed is indeed nothing more than a new hedge fund in town…