The Great Debate UK

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Yellen’s remarkably unremarkable news conference – and why it’s a good thing

Yellen holds a news conference following two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting at the Federal Reserve in WashingtonJohn Maynard Keynes famously said that his highest ambition was to make economic policy as boring as dentistry. In this respect, as in so many others, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is proving to be a loyal Keynesian.

Yellen’s second news conference as Fed chair conveyed no new information about the timing of future interest rate moves. She gave no hints about an “exit strategy” for the Fed to return the $3 trillion of bonds it has acquired to the private sector. She told us nothing about the Fed’s expectations on inflation, employment and economic growth -- not even about the board’s views on financial volatility, regulation, asset prices or bank credit policies.

Yellen refused even to repeat, or repeal, her earlier answer to a question about the meaning of the “considerable period” she expected between the end of tapering and the first rate hike. At her first news conference, Yellen responded to a similar question by blurting out “six months.” This caused an eruption of volatility in financial markets -- that lasted about five minutes.

This time Yellen decided to do no such favors for the high-frequency traders on Wall Street. Instead she gave the same frustrating answer to every question about the Fed’s future plans: “It depends.”

from Nicholas Wapshott:

Yellen shows her hand

The difference between the Federal Reserve Board of Chairwoman Janet Yellen and that of her immediate predecessor Ben Bernanke is becoming clear. No more so than in their approach to the problem of joblessness.

Bernanke made clear that in the post-2008 economy, his principal goal was the creation of jobs, not curbing inflation. He settled on a figure, 6.5 percent unemployment, as the threshold that would guide his actions.

How central bankers have got it wrong

-

If you asked someone to list the chief qualities needed to be a good central banker I assume that the list may include: good communicator, wise, attention to detail, clear thinking, credibility, and good with numbers.  However, in recent months these qualities have been sadly lacking, most notably last week when the Federal Reserve wrong-footed the markets and failed to start tapering its enormous QE programme.

The market had expected asset purchases to be tapered because: 1, Ben Bernanke had dropped fairly big hints at his June press conference that tapering was likely to take place sooner rather than later and 2, because the unemployment rate has consistently declined all year and if it continues moving in this direction then it could hit the Fed’s 6.5% target rate in the coming months.

Roll up, roll up – welcome to the great taper farce

-

We are at the stage of the financial cycle where central banks turn into circuses and central bankers become the circus performers. The market is transfixed by the show, watching every move and trying to anticipate what trick or shock will come next.

What is interesting about this particular circus is that the Ringmaster is about to leave, their replacement is turning into a whole new show of its own.

Ben Bernanke could teach the EU a thing or two

Photo
-

By Kathleen Brooks. The opinions expressed are her own.

Markets thrive on certainty. Anything that smacks of uncertainty, fence-sitting or indecision will lead to market turbulence, as investors punish those who don’t tell them how it is.

This is exactly what we are seeing in Europe right now. The markets are losing patience with the EU’s inability to come up with a credible plan to fight the sovereign debt crisis and that is why it is escalating at an alarming rate.

Bernanke steps up to scrutiny

-

-Kathleen Brooks is research director at forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.- U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta 2011 Financial Markets Conference in Stone Mountain, Georgia, April 4, 2011. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

While ECB head Jean Claude Trichet is nearing his final post-policy decision press conferences – he retires in October – on the 27 April the Fed’s Ben Bernanke will be stepping up to the podium for his first.

Did the Fed catastrophically mis-time QE2?

-

USAThe sternest criticism of QE2 is the way it pumped up asset prices like commodities in recent months without making much of an impact on U.S. economic growth. Rising fuel and food costs have weighed on inflation everywhere from emerging markets to the UK. But this criticism might step up a gear if Middle East tensions lead to a spike in oil prices and the Fed tries to protect growth using a similarly blunt tool as QE2.

The political crisis in the Middle East has been the game-changer for the global economic outlook in the past couple of weeks.  In just five days WTI oil (U.S. crude) jumped $10, and Brent (European oil) surged to within touching distance of $120 per barrel. This showed us what fear is like: since the 1970’s each recession has been preceded by an oil price shock. You don’t need much more evidence than this to see the extremely close relationship between oil and growth especially in the U.S., the largest consumer of crude in the world.

What if the U.S. labour market never returns to “normal”?

-

-Kathleen Brooks is research director at forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-

USA-ECONOMY/JOBSWhile the investment community trudged through the snow-fogged January labour market report, the only glimmer of hope was the fall in the unemployment rate to 9 per cent from 9.4 per cent in December. But while investors grabbed that as a sign that the economic recovery in the U.S. was back on track, the data is unlikely to have cheered Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke.

Has QE2 worked?

-

– Kathleen Brooks is research director at forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own. –

Ever since the U.S. Central Bank formally announced its second round of quantitative easing back in November, bond yields have trended higher. Ten-year Treasury yields have jumped by 100 basis points and are back at levels last reached in May 2010. Higher yields underpinned the dollar, which has risen by more than 5 percent over the same time period. So what does this tell us about the market, and has the Fed’s grand plan actually backfired?

from Breakingviews:

Fed’s data dump holds important lessons for Europe

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday finally published details of the institutions that clamored for its funds during the financial crisis. It's hardly surprising that troubled banks like Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup topped the charts for banks that lined up for federal money. But the disclosure illustrates the scope of the U.S. central bank's measures to keep the financial system on life support. The scale of emergency lending -- $3.3 trillion at its peak -- could hold important lessons for Europe, too.

  •