Saxo Capital Markets’ latest infographic explores the long-term value of quantitative easing (QE) and, surveying the effect on the US economy, asks whether the US Federal Reserve will ever taper QE.
The Fed first launched quantitative easing in November 2008 after efforts to boost the economy by lowering interest rates failed. The first programme of QE saw $600 billion injected into the economy by the Fed via mortgage-backed securities and government-sponsored enterprises. This then increased to $1.25 trillion as part of an expansion due to low initial impact. Again, the Fed tried QE in November 2010 with another $600 million invested in longer term Treasury securities. When this still failed to make a great enough impact, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, introduced a continuous QE programme, dubbed ‘QE Infinity’, which commits the Fed to buying up bonds at an alarming rate of $85 billion a month.
Quantitative easing, experts once assured us, would inspire the US economic recovery, leading the flagging economy to full health. But will this fiscal stimulus experiment instead drive the US economy to inflation and financial disaster? The Federal Reserve’s decision not to begin a tapering of its asset purchase programme signals a deeper dependency on intangible money printing. Last September’s third round of QE bond purchases were enacted in order to drive down interest rates, allowing businesses to borrow more easily, consequently boosting stock valuations. The QE addiction risks long-term hyperinflation and massive currency devaluation, fuelling market distortions and long-term reliance. Yet tapering may spark a climb in interest rates, prompting further – widespread – financial problems.
Saxo Capital Markets’ infographic draws attention to a mending US economy, with unemployment rates falling to 7.3% - albeit propped up by part-time workers – and Q2 GDP rising by 2.5% in 2013. Can the Fed kick the habit? These indications of growth prompted Bernanke to hint at QE tapering in June of this year, even stating that asset purchases (how the Fed has achieved QE) could come to an end if the US unemployment rate “is in the vicinity of 7%”. You can find more detailed figures, and see graphs of the changes and predictions, by checking the infographic.
Although QE tapering has been suggested, Bernanke has yet to announce a specific date when the artificially-sustained US economy will begin to be weaned off QE. Now, in October, the Fed has said that it will reduce asset purchases in early 2014, but they have laid out no specific timeline for this tapering. The Fed is also reluctant to make changes to Federal rates, announcing that they will remain at their current low levels. It is not until 2015 that they plan to start raising them again. You can see the expected pace of policy firming based on FOMC forecasts by viewing the graph in the infographic – the ‘long term’ forecast is for interest rates to return to 4%, but after how long?
There’s no doubt that QE Infinity has had an effect on a number of financial areas, including market rates. Ten Year US Treasury Yields have almost doubled in the last four months – you can see the visualised growth of US bond yields in the infographic – and this increase in growth could deter the Fed from tapering QE. Saxo Bank’s Head of FX Strategy, John Hardy, believes this may be the case and thinks that QE tapering could be “derailed by a weak US economy that can’t withstand the rise in interest rates we have already seen”.
Equity markets have also rallied in response to QE because the asset purchase programmes have invested money into private companies and their stocks have increased as a result. Savers are also choosing to invest in stocks whilst interest rates are low. When the FOMC decided not to start tapering QE, it meant equity markets continued to increase. You can track the value of the Dow Jones, DAX and FTSE over the last year in the infographic. If QE is encouraging the equity markets increase, will the Fed ever risk tapering?