Ben Bernanke

The Late, Great Taper Starts With Low Interest Rates as Far as the Eye Can See

Wall Street was all aghast that their quantitative easing was about to disappear.  The FOMC decided to taper in January and now stocks soar.  Why?  Because the taper is minimal and the FOMC announced the federal funds rate will remain an effective zero for much longer than previously estimated.

Yo, Yellen Round Up

This moment is historic.  For the first time in history a woman is nominated to chair the Federal Reserve.  Assuming Dr. Janet Yellen does a good job, this alone will help millions of women in finance and economics, which to this day is fraught with gender bias and glass ceilings.  She is already inspiring the phrase, Yellenomics and referred to as Bernanke Redux for most perceive the Fed and their policies will not change much in the transition.

How Could Ye Be So Blind About Subprime?

federalreservebuildingThere is nothing more frightening than when those in charge of the economy miss something that was as plain as the nose on your face. Such was the situation with the Federal Reserve and the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007.   The FOMC met on August 7th and claimed there was not enough evidence of a subprime problem.

The Fed Focuses on the Unemployed

federal reserve buildingThe FOMC just did a great thing. The Federal Reserve tied interest rates and quantitative easing to U.S. labor. The messaging alone is powerful. The Federal Reserve is saying, very clearly, U.S. workers matter. Businesses need to start hiring and increasing wages if they want to actually improve the overall economy.

About 5 million people—more than 40 percent of the unemployed—have been without a job for six months or more, and millions more who say they would like full-time work have been able to find only part-time employment or have stopped looking entirely. The conditions now prevailing in the job market represent an enormous waste of human and economic potential.

The FOMC set out specific parameters to the ongoing QE3.

Meet Feddie Mae

The QE3 has been officially launched today by the Federal Reserve, which has promised to buy $40 billion of asset-backed securities from the market each month, on top of $35 billion per month of Treasury securities it is already buying as part of its program to reinvest proceeds from securities which are maturing in its existing portfolio. If this isn’t enough to excite the animal spirits of the economy, the Fed has put no limit or end-date on QE3, and it has pushed out its promise to keep short term interest rates near zero for at least the next 2-1/2 years.

Why is the Fed buying mortgage-backed securities and not Treasuries, which it bought under QE1 and QE2? In the past fiscal year for the US government, the Fed purchased 77% of all the new debt issued by the Treasury, and because the Fed focused its purchases in the 10 year and beyond maturities, the Fed is bumping up against its self-imposed limit of not owning more than 70% of the outstanding paper in any maturity. The Fed is already close to this limit for maturities clustered around the 10 year mark, and the Fed owns on average 50% of all the outstanding paper in the 10 year to 30 year maturities. As Republicans have made clear in this election year, every Treasury purchased by the Fed is viewed as an attempt to influence the election of Obama, so this is a potent political reason to stay out of this market for the time being.

Bernanke Says We Don't Have Tools Strong Enough to Solve the Unemployment Problem Yet Does QE3

federal reserve buildingMore quantitative easing is here. The Federal Reserve will increase purchases of mortgage-backed securities and agency debt by $340 billion by December 31st, 2012. From the FOMC statement:

The Committee agreed today to increase policy accommodation by purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month.

The Committee also will continue through the end of the year its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities as announced in June, and it is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities. These actions, which together will increase the Committee’s holdings of longer-term securities by about $85 billion each month through the end of the year

More astounding is the promise to continue to make MBS purchases until the employment rate is acceptable.

If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the Committee will continue its purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate until such improvement is achieved in a context of price stability. In determining the size, pace, and composition of its asset purchases, the Committee will, as always, take appropriate account of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases.