Fed Minutes Reveal "Waning Benefits Of QE", Mentions Risk Of "Capital Losses"

Tyler Durden's picture

As one might have expected the tension during the most recent FOMC meeting was palpable in the minutes as opposing dovish and hawkish less dovish views on the costs and benefits (and non-comprehension of the machinations) of QE were evident.

  • *FED OFFICIALS SAW WANING BENEFITS FROM MONTHLY BOND PURCHASES
  • *MANY FOMC MEMBERS FAVORED QE TAPERING IN `MEASURED STEPS'
  • *MOST FOMC PARTICIPANTS WERE MORE CONFIDENT IN JOB MARKET GAINS
  • *FOMC PARTICIPANTS `MOST CONCERNED' ABOUT QE RISKS TO STABILITY

The likely path of tapering seems clear (and mention of extending the reverse repo facility is notable) but how forward guidance will be implemented remains the hottest topics and Eurodollar prices suggest the latter even more so than the former.

Pre-FOMC Minutes: S&P Futs 1832.0, Gold $1225.5, 10Y 2.995%, EURUSD 1.3570, USDJPY 104.95

The punchline:

Regarding the marginal efficacy of the purchase program, most participants viewed the program as continuing to support accommodative financial conditions, with a number of them pointing to the importance of purchases in serving to enhance the credibility of the Committee’s forward guidance about the target federal funds rate. A majority of participants judged that the marginal efficacy of purchases was likely declining as purchases continue, although some noted the difficulty inherent in making such an assessment. A couple of participants thought that the marginal efficacy of the program was not declining, as evidenced by the substantial effects in financial markets in recent months of news about the likely path of purchases.

Uhm yeah: remember "The Fed Now Owns One Third Of The Entire US Bond Market", and that the Fed now has a DV01 of over $3 billion. Someone at the Fed finally got the memo.

On the risk of bubbles:

The staff presented a short briefing summarizing a survey that was conducted over the intermeeting period regarding participants’ views of the marginal costs and marginal  efficacy of asset purchases. Most participants judged the marginal costs of asset purchases as unlikely to be sufficient, relative to their marginal benefits, to justify ending the purchases now or relatively soon; a few participants identified some possible costs as being more substantial, indicating that the costs could justify ending purchases now or relatively soon even if the Committee’s macroeconomic goals for the purchase program had not yet been achieved. Participants were most concerned about the marginal cost of additional asset purchases arising from risks to financial stability, pointing out that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy could provide an incentive for excessive risk-taking in the financial sector. It was noted that the risks to financial stability could be somewhat larger in the case of asset purchases than in the case of interest rate policy because purchases work in part by affecting term premiums and policymakers have less experience with term premium effects than with more conventional interest rate policy. Participants also expressed some concern that additional asset purchases increase the likelihood that the Federal Reserve might at some point suffer capital losses.

Shouldn't the Fed never, ever mention the possiblity of capital losses as it immediately becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? It continues:

... it was pointed out that the Federal Reserve’s asset purchases would almost certainly provide significant net income to the Treasury over the life of the program, especially when the effects of the program on the broader economy were taken into account, and that potential reputational risks to the Federal Reserve arising from any future capital losses could be mitigated by communicating that point to the public.

So, as long as the public knows that the Fed's DV01 of $3 bilion can and will lead to massive balance sheet losses, all will be well?

On the Overnight Reverse-Repo Facility:

... the Committee considered a proposal to increase the caps on individual allocations in the ON RRP test operations from $1 billion to $3 billion per counterparty. The proposed increase in caps was intended to test the Desk’s ability to manage somewhat larger operational flows and to provide additional information about the potential usefulness of ON RRP operations to affect market interest rates when doing so becomes appropriate. Participants generally supported the proposal, with one participant emphasizing the usefulness of extending the end date of the program beyond the end of January. However, some participants questioned the extent to which the proposed limited increase in the caps would provide additional insights about the operational aspects of the ON RRP program or the potential market effects of ON RRP operations. A few participants suggested that it would be useful to evaluate the potential role of an ON RRP facility in the context of the Committee’s plans for monetary policy implementation over the medium and longer term.

Usefulness? Why window dressing of course.

Remember peak uncertainty? "The staff viewed the uncertainty around the projection for economic activity as similar to its average over the past 20 years." So much for that.

Finally, some housing market perspectives:

The pace of activity in the housing sector appeared to continue to slow somewhat, likely reflecting the higher level of mortgage rates since the spring. Starts for both new single-family homes and multifamily units increased, on balance, from August to November, but permits—which are typically a better indicator of the underlying pace of construction—rose more gradually than starts over the same period. Sales of existing homes and pending home sales decreased further in October, although new home sales rose in October after falling markedly in the third quarter....  Mortgage rates rose over the intermeeting period to levels about 100 basis points above their early-May lows. On balance, refinancing applications were down substantially since May while purchase applications declined much less. House prices rose significantly in October, but  some indicators suggested that the pace of house price gains continued to decelerate relative to earlier in the year.

Full minutes below: