Jan Hatzius' Hypothetical Q&A With Ben Bernanke

Tyler Durden's picture

Goldman's Jan Hatzius, who whether he likes it or not, is probably the biggest variable as to whether there will be a QE3 or not, as every other Wall Street "strategist" immediately parrots what Hatzius says will happen (in no small part due to Hatzius' close relationship with NY Fed's Bill Dudley) has just released a hypothetical Q&A session in which he provides what potential answers to questions during Bernanke's first ever scheduled press conference on April 26 of this year might look like.  In order to keep the dodecatuple reverse psychology mystery to a maximum, Hatzius also provides what Goldman's answers would look like pari passu with those of the Fed (which is not all than ironic: after all the Fed gets its teleprompted lines straight from the corner offices at 200 West). So for all forensic linguist/economist/psychologists who are hoping to get an extra ounce of informational clarity on the future of monetization post June 30, here it is. Good luck.

From Goldman Sachs

Questions for Chairman Bernanke

  • Today’s focus article proposes some questions that reporters might ask Fed Chairman Bernanke at the press conference now scheduled for April 26, along with answers that we think Bernanke might give and ones that we would give ourselves if we had the opportunity to comment.
  • We expect the chairman to indicate that QE2—or in his parlance, large-scale asset purchases—will end on schedule in June without “tapering” of the kind that occurred at the end of the first round of Treasury and agency MBS purchases in 2009-2010. However, we do not expect him to indicate a move toward rate hikes or asset sales anytime soon.
  • The recent data have increased the downside risk to our 3½% (annualized) estimate for Q1 GDP growth. However, other indicators including monthly surveys of business activity, industrial production, and jobless claims still point to a healthy pace of expansion. We expect the GDP-relevant data that have yet to be released before the advance GDP report due on April 28 to look stronger and are making no changes to our forecast for now.
  • The charts on the right illustrate why. The top chart contrasts the recent weakness in core capital goods orders with the strength in the Philly Fed’s measure of capital spending expectations; our interpretation is that the durable goods data probably understate the capital spending outlook. The bottom chart shows that both industrial production and the ISM manufacturing index still point to healthy expansion in the manufacturing sector.

The Federal Reserve announced on Thursday that Chairman Bernanke will hold press conferences to explain the Federal Reserve’s summary of economic projections four times each year, starting just after the April 26-27 FOMC meeting. Details are not yet available, but it seems likely that the format will be similar to the press conferences given by European Central Bank President Trichet after each policy meeting, with an introductory statement and a question-and-answer session with selected journalists.

Below we list some questions that journalists might want to ask the chairman at the press conference, answers that Bernanke might give, and answers that we would give ourselves if we had the opportunity to comment.

Q: Why did you decide to start holding press conferences?

Bernanke: Academic research has shown that central bank press conferences can be helpful in communicating central bank decisions. For example, Ehrmann and Fratzscher (2009) find that ECB press conferences have on average had larger effects on financial asset prices than the corresponding policy decisions, but smaller effects on volatility. Thus, we view the move to press conferences as another step on the road to clearer communication.

GS: We agree that this is the primary motivation. In addition, the press conferences will provide the chairman with an opportunity to interpret the FOMC’s decision and forecasts straight away, increasing his ability to shape the message for the committee as a whole. Presumably the committee will have to sign off on the prepared statement, but much of the information content may come in the Q&A session. At the margin, the press conferences may also increase the hurdle against dissents by voting FOMC members, at least with respect to “initial” dissents. A member who already dissented at the prior meeting would presumably not see a high hurdle to repeating that dissent, but the fact that the chairman may need to answer questions about an “initial” dissent at the press conference following the meeting might make such a move a little more awkward and thus less likely.

Q: Let’s move on to the monetary policy outlook. Will QE2 end in June?

Bernanke: Based on the information available at this time, the risk of deflation has gone from small to negligible, and most indicators of economic activity point to a sustainable recovery. In such an environment, we believe that a further easing of monetary policy via additional large-scale would not be appropriate.

GS: Our own view is that the risk of deflation has certainly fallen but that the term “negligible” is too strong. If the economy were to slow anew to a below-trend growth pace, deflation concerns could resurface. But that’s neither here nor there with respect to the committee’s decision whether to end QE2, which seems to have been taken.

Q: Many people believe that nominal interest rates should be approximately equal to nominal GDP growth. Right now, nominal GDP growth is 4.2% year-on-year but the funds rate is 0.14%. Does this large gap indicate an inappropriately loose monetary policy?

Bernanke: That’s not the right way to look at it. Optimal monetary policy rules typically include a role for the level of output and employment relative to potential, not just the growth rate. At present, the level of output is far below potential, which justifies a relatively easy stance of monetary policy in which the funds rate is far below nominal GDP growth.

GS: We agree.

Q: Professor John Taylor argues that his eponymous monetary policy rule currently implies a need for tighter monetary policy. Is he right?

Bernanke: We would take a different view. As I explained in my answer to Sen. Toomey’s question at the semiannual monetary policy testimony to Congress, there are different versions of the Taylor rule and there is no particular reason to choose the one that Taylor picked in 1993, which he now argues shows that Fed policy is too loose. In the past, Taylor himself has suggested that other formulations are possible. Our own work on this issue using models that explain the FOMC’s past behaviour suggests that the funds rate currently “should” be well below zero, at least under our forecasts for inflation and economic activity.

GS: We agree.

Q: Speaking of your inflation forecast, how concerned are you about the recent pickup in inflation?

Bernanke: In recent months, inflation has rebounded from levels that we thought were too low in late 2010. However, most of the rebound has been due to commodity price increases which may not last. With still-ample slack in the labor market and the economy at large, we expect the faster pace of price increases to be temporary.

GS: We agree with this but would add one important point. In our view, the chairman’s decision to avoid the term “core inflation” is unfortunate. It is important to explain to the public that while headline inflation is—of course—a better measure of backward-looking changes in consumer purchasing power, core inflation is a better measure of the underlying trend of inflation and generally a much better predictor of future price trends than headline inflation.

Q: But don’t the recent data also suggest that there is less spare capacity in the economy than you previously thought? After all, one way to estimate the amount of spare capacity is to back it out of an inflation model. And when inflation—especially core inflation—is rising, typically this means that economists have to reduce their output gap estimates.

Bernanke: It’s a little too early to say. Monthly inflation data are noisy and their significance should not be overstated. On a year-on-year basis, underlying inflation remains low. But yes, if inflation were to accelerate, and especially if this feeds into significantly higher long-term inflation expectations—something that has not happened to a meaningful degree yet—we would conclude that there is less spare capacity than we thought. And that could mean that the Federal Reserve would need to tighten policy in a timely manner.

GS: We agree.

Q: The Federal Reserve is currently buying 70% of the net supply of Treasury securities. Once the purchases stop, some influential market participants expect a sharp increase in Treasury yields. Are they right to be worried?

Bernanke: We don’t think so. We believe that the impact of LSAPs works via the stock of securities held by the Federal Reserve, not the flow of purchases. This distinction sounds like a technical detail, but it is actually very important. If it is the flow of purchases that matters for the level of interest rates and asset prices, interest rates will rise as soon as the flow goes from the current $75bn-$80bn per month to zero. But if it is the stock of purchases that matters, rates will only rise once we announce a reduction in our securities holdings.

GS: Again, we agree with this, as explained in more detail in Thursday’s US Daily. However, neither we nor the chairman can be sure that it is the right answer—after all, there are some very astute and successful investors who believe the precise opposite! And in order to be sure, the FOMC will want to leave at least a couple of months after the end of QE2 before it takes the next step toward a tightening of monetary policy. This means that even if the data are strong, it is unlikely that the committee will want to stop the reinvestment of MBS paydowns and/or make a change in the “extended period” language in the FOMC statement until a couple of meetings later.

Q: Does your answer to the last question imply that you have no appetite for “tapering” the end of QE2, i.e. gradually reducing the pace of Treasury purchases as you did with the Treasury and MBS purchases back in 2009 and 2010?

Bernanke: We do not intend to taper the end of the purchases. The reason is that we believe it is the stock rather than the flow that matters, as explained previously. If so, the benefit from tapering in terms of minimizing the risk of market disruptions is negligible.

GS: We agree that the benefit from tapering is likely to be low, although the cost is also very low. Thus, our own view is that a decision to taper could make some sense. But of course it is the Fed’s view that matters.

Q: When are you going to raise rates?

Bernanke: I can’t tell you that!

GS: Our forecast remains that the first hike will occur in early 2013. However, the higher-than-expected inflation numbers in recent months have somewhat increased the risk to this view, and it is certainly very possible that the tightening process will start in 2012. At this point, the evidence against our forecast—in which inflation depends on the level of the output gap and the (anchored) level of inflation expectation—is still not very strong given the noise in the data. But a few more months of higher core CPI and PCE numbers could change our mind, especially if these were accompanied by higher inflation expectations. If so, the risk of earlier hikes would rise.

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TexDenim's picture

There is no way there will be a QE3. Bob McTeer, formerly of the Dallas Fed, said "no new ocean liners" and Dick Fisher, the new Dallas Fed prez. told a German audience he would not have voted for QE2. There will no doubt be some whitewash about "protecting the US balance sheet" but the long booze party is over now. Even if Ben were dumb enough to want to continue mainlining alcohol into the national bloodstream, the new GOP congress will not let him. This bullshit is gonna finally stop.

10kby2k's picture

Tex--thats the reverse psych at work.

Tater Salad's picture

Tex, couldn't disagree with you more.  QE2 has an 89% correlation with the upward move in equity, the same must hold true (to some degree) if there isn't QE. 

They may "try" to let it expire and see what the hell comes about, however I think the 15-20 handle move south in SPX will change their bulled up stance on things very quickly.  They now have a huge excuse in Japan's recent tradgey.  I can see it now; "we had all intentions of removing QE from our policy however the recent events in Japan now pose a threat to global growth".


Say hellow to QE3, locked and loaded. 

TexDenim's picture

Tater, I don't disagree with your analysis of the charts, but how long do you think a government agency can prop up the entire U.S. equity market? Do you recognize that eventually we have to go back to a "free" market?

10kby2k's picture

wtf is a free market?


RoRoTrader's picture

Not long is my best guess and shorting into equities as range tops are now again in sight.


malek's picture

Simple answer: As long as inflation doesn't reach the acute pain level for main street. I'd say that's 6 to 24 months in the future.

Tex, we have dropped the "reason" option a long time ago from the policy menu. The return to a free market is only possible through some kind of collapse: either a stock/bond market collapse (real and nominal) or a currency collapse.

InconvenientCounterParty's picture

>>Good morning Ben. You look tired, rough night?

<< That's not fatigue. It's jet lag.

>>So, Ben, Can you sketch out in broad terms how the FED and Treasury will continue to monetize U.S. deficits?

<< For national security reasons, I can't provide any detail. I can say that it will be a concerted effort by the FED, media, wall street and the coporates. In laymen's terms, it's called "the heavy lifting"

>>With the Fed freezing the "market" in short duration bonds, how will the long end respond?

<<In the short term, we may see deformations in different areas of the curve. The committee is quite confident the long end will not become dislocated in any meaningful way. As the recovery plays out, we expect robust demand for all duration U.S. Treasuries will return.

>> Does that mean the S&P won't go up and to the right forever?

<< yes.

Shameful's picture

So will the primary dealers still have the hunger for Treasuries if they can't play flip that bond with the Fed?  I'm open to Zimbabwe Ben stopping, I just want to know what entity will step into the market to replace the gorilla level of buying the Fed is doing.  $600 billion is pretty big, even compared to Goldman's bonus pool.   Or is it the premise that the Fed will just let Treasury rates go till they attract a bid.  And will point out problem with higher rates is the insane roll that has to be done over the next 12 months and what additional interest expense will do to the already insane deficits.

AFVet's picture

Agreed.  No idea who will be buying Treasuries if/when the Fed stops, which strongly implies some form of QE will continue.  

I also suspect continued easy money was a quid pro quo with Obama in exchange for nominating him again. If Bernanke pulls the punch bowl now, Obama has no shot at a 2nd term, not that he deserves one mind you.

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi's picture

"No idea who will be buying Treasuries if/when the Fed stops, which strongly implies some form of QE will continue."


Short term people jumping to safety as equities adjust to "fair value"? More interesting who will buy equities?

TexDenim's picture

Zimbabwe Ben -- I love it. I actually bought a 100 trillion bill from a coin shop in Illinois. Actually I got several of them, along with a matching 1 dollar bill (Zimbabwe brand). I give them away to investment bankers at dinner parties.

Zon's picture

No way. I remember even zerohedge back in August went back and forth saying QE2 was a sure thing to no chance of QE2 happening. And look what happened.

SolidSnake961's picture

dow will crash down if no new QE is announced right away, BTFD time for gold/silver during that time when they go down as well

john39's picture

exactly.  that is the desired effect, and that is why there will be no QE3.  mission accomplished, the economy and the middle class will be thoroughly destroyed and on their knees.

GFORCE's picture

I'm with you there John39. They've accomplisehd their goals. They re-inflated the old bubble to let them diversify their assets.

Now they'll suck out QE and watch it all collapse- probably blame it on Al Qaeda or China. Hello one world currency.

baby_BLYTHE's picture

The market is almost at the same height it was prior to the "Greatest Collapse since the Great Depression".

If QE is so great, why hasn't the FED attempted this before? Who needs a bear market?

You cannot make this shit up! So Depressing!

LudwigVon's picture

Exactly. Then QE3 will be here before you know it.

digalert's picture

Kudlow on CNBS while talking to Pentos referred to ChairSatan as "the Bernank" on todays show. I wonder if he listens to those Panda bears?

JuicyTheAnimal's picture

That's some stinky BS not to be trusted for a second. 

Hansel's picture

Is this what passes for research at GS?  Jan has a tea party with the Bernank.  What drivel.

Atomizer's picture

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frank's picture


Atomizer's picture


Atomizer's picture

You will not last Mr/Mrs junker. We can feel your fear cultivating within your stomach and rectum. Your liberation will be to defect at time of exposure. Funny how history repeats. hehehee

Careless Whisper's picture

Q: Mister Hatzius, did anyone from GoldmanSachs take the witness stand today in that criminal insider trading case?


max2205's picture

I hope this is a joke

JW n FL's picture

can you see his hand up his ass? I can barely see his lips move when hes talking as the puppet... fantastic act... 5 stars.. dinner theatre at its best!

Double down's picture

The gamble is enormous.  The planet needs capacity to absorb the American deficte, and not just the American.  "Accounting changes" can change the degree of freedom of leverage but cannot shrink it.   Are we saying that net new issuance from the EU, US and ASIA will somehow be absorbed without a detrimental increase in rates?  How will leverage capacity grow sufficiently large to absorb the net new issuance when QE2 terminates?  Where will the demand come from to absorb all the "new" assets? 

Where are the Martians who is going to buy this stuff especially now when we have "proved" to American politicians that deficites do not matter?


slaughterer's picture

Hatzius for Fed Chairman!  What?  He already is Chairman?

Highrev's picture

What's this? A shadow Bernanke system?

What's GS up to with this? A not so subtle attempt to prep Bernanke?


Full Disclosure: Keeping in mind it's dealing with hypothetical hypotheticals and coming from GS, and the fact that I don't have unlimited time to waste, I didn't even read it.

Billy Shears's picture

Can't these statements:

"We believe that the impact of LSAPs works via the stock of securities held by the Federal Reserve, not the flow of purchases....But if it is the stock of purchases that matters, rates will only rise once we announce a reduction in our securities holdings."

be the rational for additional LSAPs and hence the signal that more QEx is in on the way, in due course for whatever reason is conjured?

tom's picture

Hatzius sure acts like he has the inside scoop, but you can't trust him not to lie through his teeth to help Goldman profit by tricking others into believing QE is ending, so I would take him with a grain of salt. But you can't accuse him of being too modest to put words in other people's mouths.

If you think he's being honest this time, and that he's right, then get ready to go triple-short long-dated Treasuries if you can find a way. Especially if there's no taper, the end of QE will bring a sudden spike of net Treasuries issuance in July.

Since QE started, out of the $25 billion per week of debt issued by Treasury, the Fed has been taking about $17 billion for QE and another $7 billion to replace its maturing agencies, leaving just $1b a week of net issuance to the market. Hatzius is saying the Fed will stop QE at the end of June but continue replacing maturing agencies. That would mean net treasury issuance to the market would suddenly jump from $1b a week to about $18b a week in July. I could be wrong, but I don't see China just coming back to the Treasuries market like it was never forced out.

Hatzius' and his Bernanke ventriloquist doll's argument about stocks mattering not flows relates to short-term interbank rates, not Treasuries. Short-term interbank rates depend on stocks of excess reserves. Yields on Treasuries depend very much on the flows of net issuance of Treasuries to the market.

TruthInSunshine's picture

It sounds like Hatzius wrote Bernank a warning letter, on behalf of Goldman Sachs.

But why the publication of it for wide consumption?

Nothing makes sense anymore unless something very dramatic and truly unexpected is about to unfold, and of which a few people have advance knowledge.

rlouis's picture

The image that keeps coming to my mind while reading through this is of Darth Vader speaking for the emperor in some scene out of Star Wars.  The voice and breathing of some artificially maintained life form (global reserve currency) that is about to implode on a demented empire.

Giving GS the benefit of the doubt; that the statements attributed to Bernbanks are from Bernbanks testimony to congress and public statements, I am moved by the arrogance of choosing the questions which reporters would deem of sufficient scope and import to ask, and then giving Bernbank's bs reply, followed by the unequivocal GS agreement/opinion on nearly every question.  I would like to ask Bernbanks why destroying the dollar is good for America, the American people and the world < we all have answers for that, but I'd like to hear it from Bernbanks>. 

Lack of Credibility: CPI,  AIG, TBTF, TARP, unregulated derivatives, manipulated markets, multiple quarters of perfect trading at TBTF banks.   ROFLMAO - oh damn, it's funny, cuz if it wasn't, it would be really f**ked up!

Congress should be asking the tough questions, but since they're puppets of their campaign contributors there is no reason to even think of anything off script.   I just hope the reset button doesn't have nukes attached to it. 


sbenard's picture

I'm so glad Hatzius released this. Now, "Bubbles" Bernanke has sufficient time over the next month to memorize the correct answers to all the questions he's likely to receive. Now that GS has revealed to us what the correct answers are, of course! We wouldn't want to upset Goldman Sachs now, would we?

I couldn't help but notice that GS agrees with ALL of the proposed answers they have spoon-fed to their "Bubbles" stooge. (Now, Bubbles, just follow orders and no one will get hurt.)

TruthInSunshine's picture

Hatzius already sent his 'suggested list of questions' to reporters at Bloomberg, CNBC, The Wall Steet Journal, The Financial Times, The New York Times (hello, Andrew Ross Sorkin) a week ago.