Update: yup. It's Jon "Mouthpiece" Hilsenrath all right. This is nothing but a test to gauge if the market will ramp on the clarification that future QE may be sterilized. If market ramps regardless, the sterilized clause will be ultimately eliminated. Full story link.
While we have yet to see the actual report, almost certainly emanating from Jon Hilsenrath, it appears that the QE3 rumormill has started, initially with speculation that the Fed's activity will be merely "sterilized" or more Twist-type purchases, unclear however if in TSYs or also in MBS. Via the WSJ:
- Fed Officials consider "sterilized" option for Future bond buying
- Operation Twist Reprise, QE Other Options For Fed Bond
- Still Unclear Whether Fed Will Launch Another Bond-Buy
As a reminder, yesterday we said that according to the EURUSD, the implied market expectation is for a $750 billion QE out of the Fed. However, that is for unsterilized balance sheet expansion. If the Fed goes ahead and does not grow its balance sheet (hence "sterilized"), it may well be EURUSD, and thus risk, and gold, negative, as no new money will enter the market for actual speculation. Which perhaps is precisely what the Fed is planning, as every incremental dollar now goes into Crude first, and everything else later. In other words: this is a very big risk off indicator as no new money will be available to pump up stocks, and all this will do is try to make longer-dated yields even lower, an approach that has proven to be an abysmal failure to date.
This also means that while the ECB is borrowing ever more and more tricks from the FRBNY Goldman team, such as massive Discount Window usage, the Fed is now using the ECB playbook when it comes to selective easing without generating inflation - the US goes German. Of course, there is no such thing as truly sterilized intervention, as ultimately the Fed will merely fund the banks indirectly in some other way, to give them the dry powder needed to sterilize and generate the required ROEs without which their stocks would plunge.
This move may have to be faded:
From the WSJ. INFLATION word count 9:
Federal Reserve officials are considering a new type of bond-buying program designed to subdue worries about future inflation if they decide to take new steps to boost the economy in the months ahead....The aim of such an approach would be to relieve anxieties that money printing could fuel inflation later, a fear widely expressed by critics of the Fed's previous efforts to aid the recovery..... If growth or inflation pick up much, officials seem unlikely to launch a bond-buying program because the economy might not need the extra help or because doing more could spur higher inflation. The Fed's approach to a bond buying program matters a lot to many investors. More money printing could push commodities and stock prices higher, or send the dollar lower, if it sparks a perception among investors that inflation is moving higher, said Michael Feroli, an economist with J.P Morgan Chase.
Fed officials have used different types of bond-buying programs since 2008. In each case the aim has been to drive down long-term interest rates to spur investment and spending by businesses and households. In case they decide to act again, they're exploring three different approaches, according to people familiar with the matter. Those approaches are:
• First, they could use the method they used aggressively from 2008 into 2011, in which the Fed effectively printed money and used it to purchase Treasury securities and mortgage debt. The Fed has already acquired more than $2.3 trillion of securities in several rounds of purchases using this approach, widely known as "quantitative easing," or QE.
• Second, the Fed could reprise a program launched last year in which it is selling short-term Treasury securities and using the proceeds to buy long-term bonds. This $400 billion program, known as "Operation Twist," allows the Fed to buy bonds without creating new money.
• Third, in the new novel approach, the Fed could print money to buy long-term bonds, but restrict how investors and banks use that money by employing new market tools they have designed to better manage cash sloshing around in the financial system. This is known as "sterilized" QE.
The Fed's objective under any of these programs would be to reduce the holdings of long-term securities in the hands of investors and banks. The Fed believes that reducing the amount of long-term bonds in the hands of investors drives down long-term interest rates, encourages more risk-taking, and thus spurs spending and investment by households and businesses.
The differences between the three approaches involve where the money comes from and where it ends up. The Fed hasn't literally print more money, but it has electronically credited the accounts of banks and investors with new money when it purchased their bonds under quantitative easing. The Fed has pumped more than $1.6 trillion in new money into the financial system this way, and has also rejiggered it existing holdings, as part of its bond-buying efforts.