Barry Ritholtz wrote an opinion piece on Bloomberg today arguing that it’s hard to criticize the Fed’s QE programs simply because we don’t know what would have happened without them. Since this is not a “controlled” experiment in which we can compare a…
As we approach the fifth anniversary of the start of the first quantitative easing program, some are asking the thorny question about the so-called “distributional effects” of these unprecedented programs. Who really benefited since the first QE was launched? There is a great deal of debate on the topic, but here are a couple of facts. Financial asset valuations, particularly in the corporate sector have seen sharp increases. For example the S&P500 index total return (including dividends) has delivered 144% over the 5-year period. Those who had the resources to stay with stock investments were rewarded handsomely.
But what about those who didn’t have such an opportunity? For example savers, particularly retirees who had to stay in cash? They were hurt severely by record low interest rates (negative real rates – see post). And those who had neither the savings nor significant stock investments, relied on house price appreciation or growth in wages. The housing recovery has certainly been helpful (for those who kept their homes), but according to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index, US housing is up less than 5% over the past five years. Not much of a “wealth effect” for those without stock portfolios. And when it comes to wage growth, the situation isn’t much better. The chart below shows hourly earnings growth of private sector employees.
It therefore shouldn’t be a surprise that the three rounds of quantitative easing over the past five years rewarded those who had the wherewithal to hold substantial equity investments. Everyone else on the other hand – which is the majority – was not as fortunate.
Perhaps the best illustration of these distributional effects is in the chart below. It shows the relative performance of luxury goods shares with wealthier clients vs. retail outfits that target the middle class. The benefits of QE are clearly not felt equally by the two groups.
So as we prepare for the Janet Yellen’s ultra-dovish Fed (see story), it’s worth thinking about the past five years and the cost of growing distributional effects in the United States. For now there is plenty more cheap money to help those with large stock portfolios.
JPMorgan: – There are debates about whether a 0% cost of money helps anything except financial asset prices … All we know is that the Fed has a story to tell (“cheap money is good”) and they are sticking to it.
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The stock market rally that started in March 2009… The one that’s taken us out of the Great Recession and to new highs… The rally that’s driving sentiment indicators of people who benefit from rising financial assets directly, peripherally, or because they hope all boats rise with the market…
It is possible neither Janet Yellen nor another pretender will fill Bernanke’s shoes in January. The odds of such a surprise may be once-in-a-history-of-the-universe, but those keep coming at a faster rate the longer we splurge. Simple Ben has been walking both his bank and the world’s financial institutions closer to the cliff. Here, we will look at the precarious position of the Federal Reserve and the far-out financial securities entering the pipeline at an increasing rate.
Central banks may have foolish policies, but central bankers are no dummies.
President Obama’s nomination of Janet Yellen is not unexpected. Nevertheless, it is greeted here with unrequited abjection. Unless the world’s financial hocus-pocus comes unglued between now and then, she will inflate electronic money accounts without compunction. By doing so, Yellen will make matters worse (a sampling: real incomes will fall further, the gap between the rich and the poor will increase). She will redefine an acceptable inflation rate at 4.0%. Currently, the Fed is gunning for 2.0% inflation. This will be part and parcel to Yellen’s attempt to drive interest rates down at all maturities. The objective will grow harder so require larger electronic deposits. She will beget looser money and a more destructive policy than Ben Bernanke’s: a -4.0% real rate of interest.
Refreshing was the questioning of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke by Congressman Scott Garrett from New Jersey in “Shooting Stars.” We can hope his influence may spread.
It should be obvious by now that mass democratization over the past century demanded a steady flow of inflation. The inflation of self-esteem: This inspired…
This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Money Morning. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission. Almost every major news outlet predicted a taper…
This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Money Morning. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke announced in a press…