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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Different Views on QE3 Timing

by Calculated Risk on 6/21/2012 06:14:00 PM

Yesterday I argued that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke had paved the way for QE3 as soon as August 1st, depending, as always, on incoming data. Others think the Fed will wait longer. Here are some different views:

From Merrill Lynch analysts (who all year have been predicting QE3 at the September FOMC meeting):

The Federal Reserve announced that it would extend Operation Twist through the end of the year, selling or rolling over $267bn of short-term holdings into longer-term Treasuries. We view this program as a down-payment on further easing: we still expect the Fed to launch QE3 in September and to push out its forward guidance to mid-2015 by August or September. Bernanke confirmed that the Fed stood ready to ease further if economic conditions warranted; under our forecast, deteriorating conditions will convince the Fed to ease again this fall.
From Goldman Sachs analysts (who thought there was a high probability QE3 would be announced at the meeting yesterday):
The FOMC's communication was dovish. First, changes to the committee's economic outlook were larger than expected, with significant downgrades to real GDP growth and employment. Second, the FOMC put in place a more explicit easing bias in the statement, saying that it "is prepared to take further action" should the recovery--and the job market in particular--continue to disappoint.

We believe further easing will be needed ... given our forecast for the economy--which remains below the Fed's own view--we also expect additional balance sheet expansion by early 2013.

However, the hurdle for additional balance sheet action in the next few months appears to be quite high. The fact that the FOMC took a "substantive" easing step today probably makes another easing move in the near term relatively unlikely.
And quite a few people wonder - given the Fed's own projections - why the Fed didn't do QE3 yesterday. From Paul Krugman:
The Fed has a dual mandate, employment and price stability. Its own projections show high unemployment persisting for years and years, inflation running below its target — and realistically its inflation projections are too high while its unemployment projections are too low. There is no rational argument I can see for not going all out with monetary stimulus.

But what we actually got was action that was pretty obviously calculated to be the absolute least the Fed could do without generating headlines saying “Fed ignores weak economy”.
CR Note: Perhaps an argument against a QE3 announcement on August 1st is there will not be much data released between now and the next FOMC meeting. For employment, the only major report will be the June employment report to be released on July 6th. Also the advance estimate for Q2 GDP will be released on July 27th. Still, if the data is weak, I expect the FOMC to provide additional accommodation at the August meeting.