As US markets remain in hibernation for a few more hours, Goldman picks out the five critical questions that need to be considered in the context of 2012's economic outlook. Jan Hatzius and his team ask and answer a veritable chart-fest of crucial items from whether US growth will pick up to above-trend (and remain 'decoupled' from Europe's downside drag), whether inflation will find its Goldilocks moment this year and if the US housing market will bottom in 2012 (this one is a stretch). Summarizing all of these in a final question, whether the Fed will ease further, the erudite economist continues to expect an expansion of LSAP (focused on Agency MBS) and an official re-adjustment to an inflation targeting environment. Their view remains that a nominal GDP target combined with more (larger) QE improves the chances of the Fed meeting its dual mandates (unemployment target?) over time but expectations for this radical shift remain predicated on considerably worse economic performance in the economy first (as they expect growth to disappoint). We feel the same way (worse is needed) and recall our recent (firstly here, then here and here) focus on the shift in the balance of power between the Fed and ECB balance sheets (forced Fed QE retaliation soon?).
The Fed now has $15 billion in purchasing power left under the Treasury component of QE. Of the $1,250 billion in MBS projected to be bought by the end of the year, the Fed was already purchased $840 billion, leaving $410 billion in budgeted purchases over the next three and a half months: about $125 billion per month.