The Federal Reserve performed another empty magic trick yesterday to the tune of $1 trillion.
While the Kabuki Theater of AIG outrage played out in Washington, the Fed was pulling its David Copperfield School of Economic Recovery routine. They’ll be printing up a trillion buck and “pumping it into the U.S. economy”…by buying up bonds and mortgage securities…sold and backed by the government. Voila:
The Federal Reserve sharply stepped up its efforts to bolster the economy on Wednesday, announcing that it would pump an extra $1 trillion into the financial system by purchasing Treasury bonds and mortgage securities.
Having already reduced the key interest rate it controls nearly to zero, the central bank has increasingly turned to alternatives like buying securities as a way of getting more dollars into the economy, a tactic that amounts to creating vast new sums of money out of thin air. But the moves on Wednesday were its biggest yet, almost doubling all of the Fed’s measures in the last year.
The action makes the Fed a buyer of long-term government bonds rather than the short-term debt that it typically buys and sells to help control the money supply.
The illusion melts:
“In these circumstances, the Federal Reserve will employ all available tools to promote economic recovery and to preserve price stability,” the central bank said.
As expected, policy makers decided to keep the Fed’s benchmark interest rate on overnight loans in a range between zero and 0.25 percent.
But to the surprise of investors and analysts, the committee said it had decided to purchase an additional $750 billion worth of government-guaranteed mortgage-backed securities on top of the $500 billion that the Fed is already in the process of buying.
In addition, the Fed said it would buy up to $300 billion worth of longer-term Treasury securities over the next six months. That would tend to push down longer-term interest rates on all types of loans.
All these measures would come in addition to what has already been an unprecedented expansion of lending by the Fed. The central bank also said it would probably expand the scope of a new program to finance consumer and business lending, which gets under way this week.
In effect, the central bank has been lending money to a wider and wider array of borrowers, and it has financed that lending by using its authority to create new money at will.
Mike Shedlock weighs in on Bernanke’s “grand experiment:”
Note the losing battle Benanke is fighting: attitudes. The Fed has become the lender of only resort as opposed to the lender of last resort. Bernanke cannot force banks to lend nor can he force companies to hire or if they do hire the wages that will be paid.
Wage destruction continues unabated, and if Bernanke does succeed in driving prices higher, he just might ask himself, how anyone is going to pay the bills.
Deflation is a Benefit, Not a Curse
Deflation is a benefit, not a curse. It only appears to be a curse through the myopic eyes of Bernanke who is worried about the destruction of debt on the balance sheets of financial institutions. However the time to worry about balance sheets is not now. The time to worry about balance sheets was in 2002 when something could have been done about it.
Now the best thing to do is let things play out. The economy will bottom on its own once prices fall far enough.