Friday, March 26, 2010

The Fed's Report Card, by The Fed

The federal reserve put out their assessment of Ben Bernanke's helicopter ride in a report titled Large-Scale Asset Purchases by the Federal Reserve: Did They Work?

Presumably it isn't surprising they conclude what one expects when demand rushes in like a flood:
We present evidence that the purchases led to economically meaningful and long-lasting reductions in longer-term interest rates on a range of securities, including securities that were not included in the purchase programs. These reductions in interest rates primarily reflect lower risk premiums, including term premiums, rather than lower expectations of future short-term interest rates.

Well of course! When demand for security jumps, so does the price. For a bond, rates fall when prices fall. And given the money to fund the purchase was created out of thin air, there was no decrease in demand for competitive instruments. The money that may have purchased those bonds was free to purchase others.

The reductions reflected lower risk premiums because it was made perfectly clear that there is no limit to the money available (since it doesn't come from finite pre-existing money) and hence no reason to expect lack of funding. It didn't reflect lower expectations of future short-term interest rates because it was also made clear it would end and the dilution effect was sure to increase the inflation premium in future markets.

One wonders if the authors actually expected any other conclusion. Imagine a rocket scientist being surprised that propelling an object at 200 MPH in an upward vector would make the object fly, but eventually fall to the earth as the applied acceleration source was stopped.

In spite of the humorous angle, it's a good piece of writing for one who wants to get a good look at how open market operations function.

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