If you value your sanity, don't listen to the day-to-day drivel of market prices. Markets are down because the WSJ has published a story, rumoured to be leaked form the Fed, describing the new QE program. Here's the money quote:
Unlike in March 2009, when the Fed laid out a program to buy $1.75 trillion worth of Treasury and mortgage bonds over six to nine months, officials this time want flexibility as they assess if the program is working.
Mr. Bernanke has used the analogy of a golfer with a new putter: Unsure how it will work, he finds best strategy is to tap lightly at first and keep tapping until the golfer figures out how best to use the putter.
The Fed could leave open the possibility of more purchases in the future, particularly if inflation is projected to remain below 2% and the unemployment outlook remains high, which is currently the expectation of many officials. Or it could halt the program if the economy or inflation surprisingly take off, officials have said.
...The main aim of a bond buying program would be to drive down long-term interest rates by pushing up the price of Treasury bonds and thus driving down their yields. From nearly 4% in April, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note has already tumbled to about 2.6%, in part because investors expect the Fed to be in the market buying bonds. Mortgage rates, closely tied to the 10-year note yield, have fallen to their lowest levels in more than four decades.
...A Wall Street Journal survey of private sector economists in early October found that the Fed is expected to purchase about $250 billion of Treasury bonds per quarter and continue until mid-2011, amounting to about $750 billion in all.
New York Fed president William Dudley put forward one key benchmark in a speech earlier this month. He noted that $500 billion worth of purchases had the same impact on the economy as a reduction of the federal funds rate by one-half to three-quarters of a percentage point.
In speeches this week, Mr. Dudley repeated he found the economy's weak state "unacceptable" and said "further Fed action was likely to be warranted."
The bond-buying program is likely to focus on Treasury bonds with maturities mostly between 2-years and 10-years, according to interviews with some officials."
One of this blogger's favourite Fed watchers, Tim Duy, goes a bit nuts over this today, describing it thus:
Federal Reserve policymakers must be pleased with themselves. Market participants have fallen in line like lemmings off a cliff pursuing the obvious trades as the excitement over quantitative easing builds. Equities, bonds, commodities are all up. Dollar is down. Perhaps more importantly, measured inflation expectations have trended higher. Psychology is a powerful thing. Like leverage.
But like leverage, psychology can turn against you. The psychology of market participants forms on the back of expectations, which in this case is for the Fed to announce a significant expansion of the balance sheet on November 3. If the Wall Street Journal is correct, the Fed is poised to disappoint those expectations with an announcement of "a few billion dollars over several months." This looks like a clear effort to temper expectations.
How can Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke not view this as anything but yet another major policy error? The first supposedly "shock and awe" balance sheet expansion failed to reflate the economy. What kind of expectations should we have for the "shock and disappoint" strategy? And the stakes are even greater. Market participants already dutifully followed the first reflation attempt, and have eagerly embraced the second. Just exactly how many bites at the apple does Bernanke expect he is going to get? Fool me once….
Whilst this blogger is well aware of the possibility of policy irrationality, this criticism looks a bit rich. If we go back to Bernanke's Jackson Hole speech, which sparked the huge rally in risk assets, what is being delivered looks pretty much on cue with what was foreshadowed:
This morning I have reviewed the outlook, the Federal Reserve’s response, and its policy options for the future should the recovery falter or inflation decline further.
In sum, the pace of recovery in output and employment has slowed somewhat in recent months, in part because of slower-than-expected growth in consumer spending, as well as continued weakness in residential and nonresidential construction. Despite this recent slowing, however, it is reasonable to expect some pickup in growth in 2011 and in subsequent years. Broad financial conditions, including monetary policy, are supportive of growth, and banks appear to have become somewhat more willing to lend.
Importantly, households may have made more progress than we had earlier thought in repairing their balance sheets, allowing them more flexibility to increase their spending as conditions improve. And as the expansion strengthens, firms should become more willing to hire. Inflation should remain subdued for some time, with low risks of either a significant increase or decrease from current levels.
Although what I have just described is, I believe, the most plausible outcome, macroeconomic projections are inherently uncertain, and the economy remains vulnerable to unexpected developments. The Federal Reserve is already supporting the
economic recovery by maintaining an extraordinarily accommodative monetary policy, using multiple tools. Should further action prove necessary, policy options are available to provide additional stimulus. Any deployment of these options requires a careful comparison of benefit and cost. However, the Committee will certainly use its tools as needed to maintain price stability - avoiding excessive inflation or further disinflation - and to promote the continuation of the economic recovery.
As I said at the beginning, we have come a long way, but there is still some way to travel. Together with other economic policymakers and the private sector, the Federal Reserve remains committed to playing its part to help the U.S. economy return to sustained, noninflationary growth.
No, on this occasion it's not Bernanke that screwed up, it's regular market hysterics. Buy the rumour, sell the fact, don't you know.