QE Is The "Albatross" of Monetary Policy
Quantitative easing (QE) is the "albatross" of the current stance of monetary policy. Quantitative easing was a monetary tool created during the Great Financial Recession. Operating at the "zero" bound of official rates, the Fed found a new channel (QE) to provide monetary stimulus and liquidity to the economy and financial markets. QE was a new way of making money as the Fed bought bonds directly from the financial markets in exchange for cash, increasing the broad money supply.
The first quantitative easing program ran from 2009 to 2014. During that period, the Fed's balance sheet exploded to over $4 trillion from about $500 billion before the Great Financial Recession. The Fed started the second QE program when the pandemic hit. That boosted the Fed balance sheet to $8.8 trillion, more than twice the size after the first program.
Several studies have concluded that the first QE program was the equivalent of several hundred basis points of additional official rate cuts. The second program was as big or bigger in scale, providing monetary stimulus worth several hundred points of Fed easing.
Since QE never existed before, no one understands how this new tool would impact the effectiveness of monetary policy when policymakers tighten policy. But it should be symmetrical. That means as long as the scale of QE remains exceptionally large (Fed balance sheet still well over $8 trillion), it will probably take much bigger hikes, and to higher levels, in official rates for the stance of monetary policy to be as restrictive as when QE was not in place. (Note: If there are no negative consequences of QE it would then go down as the greatest invention in history)
How else can anyone explain the exceptional strength of the labor markets and historic low unemployment rate, accelerating bank lending, resilience in the equity and bond markets, and high inflation rates after nearly 500 basis points of official rate hikes, the most significant increase for a single year since the early 1980s without linking it to QE?
Remnants of QE are preventing the Fed from accomplishing its goal of reversing the inflation cycle. Risk assets should remain well-bid as long as the Fed fails to recognize the problem. But what happens when the Fed says they were wrong again?
Joseph G. CarsonAuthorMore in Author Profile »
Joseph G. Carson, Former Director of Global Economic Research, Alliance Bernstein. Joseph G. Carson joined Alliance Bernstein in 2001. He oversaw the Economic Analysis team for Alliance Bernstein Fixed Income and has primary responsibility for the economic and interest-rate analysis of the US. Previously, Carson was chief economist of the Americas for UBS Warburg, where he was primarily responsible for forecasting the US economy and interest rates. From 1996 to 1999, he was chief US economist at Deutsche Bank. While there, Carson was named to the Institutional Investor All-Star Team for Fixed Income and ranked as one of Best Analysts and Economists by The Global Investor Fixed Income Survey. He began his professional career in 1977 as a staff economist for the chief economist’s office in the US Department of Commerce, where he was designated the department’s representative at the Council on Wage and Price Stability during President Carter’s voluntary wage and price guidelines program. In 1979, Carson joined General Motors as an analyst. He held a variety of roles at GM, including chief forecaster for North America and chief analyst in charge of production recommendations for the Truck Group. From 1981 to 1986, Carson served as vice president and senior economist for the Capital Markets Economics Group at Merrill Lynch. In 1986, he joined Chemical Bank; he later became its chief economist. From 1992 to 1996, Carson served as chief economist at Dean Witter, where he sat on the investment-policy and stock-selection committees. He received his BA and MA from Youngstown State University and did his PhD coursework at George Washington University. Honorary Doctorate Degree, Business Administration Youngstown State University 2016. Location: New York.