Over the last several days, the Fed has trotted out multiple spokesmen to suggest there might not be another round of trash credit creation (quantitative easing). The Dallas Fed's Fisher came out on Tuesday and suggested the program should not be extended when it ends in June and that things may already have gone too far. Lockhart of Atlanta stated "it's a high bar" in response to questions about QE3. Minneapolis' Korcherlakota stated the economy would have to "worsen materially" to extend the bond market manipulation. Finally, Plosser of the Philadelphia Fed recommended not merely stopping or even reversing the bond buying but also raising interest rates.
The central bank should set a pace for selling its mortgage and Treasury holdings in conjunction with raising interest rates, Plosser said today in a speech in New York. He suggested selling $125 billion for every 0.25 percentage-point rise in the benchmark rate to almost eliminate $1.5 trillion in bank reserves.So why is the Fed so concerned suddenly after abusing their authority in blatant fashion for more than two years? Clearly they don't care about inflation - having inflicted a tripling of oil prices, a doubling of most grains and even worse in some commodities upon the world. It would seem that they are concerned that people are catching on to what they are doing and starting to point the finger in the right direction. So now they need to very publicly posture as "inflation fighters" until people's attention wavers. And the spotlight is definitely turning their way. As the Financial Times reports:
The finger of blame is increasingly pointing toward central banks and the US Federal Reserve in particular. By printing money through quantitative easing, there are supposedly more dollars, yen and pounds chasing the same number of Beefy Crunch Burritos. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke actually was asked during a speaking engagement last month whether the central bank was culpable for the revolution in Egypt.Essentially, the Bernak is standing over the body with a bloody knife in his hands and the lights have just turned on. He seems determined to brazen it out and has sent out his minions to talk about all of the wonderful things he's done and will do if we just leave him alone with his power. This is all an attempt to distract attention for the Fed's culpability in the destruction of purchasing power worldwide.
“I think it’s entirely unfair to attribute excess demand pressures in emerging markets to US monetary policy because emerging markets have all the tools they need to address excess demand in those countries,” said the clearly annoyed banker.
But an increasingly common view is that, with the very best intentions, he is at fault. Critics regularly cite the words of Milton Friedman, who said that “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon”.
It is all about perception. That is why the Fed cares about inflation expectations, even while deliberately inflicting inflation on the economy. They can more effectively steal the value of your savings and income if you don't know what is going on. That job becomes much harder when the population starts to adjust their thinking and behavior to account for the destructive acts of the Fed. It is so important to prevent that change in thought and deed that Paul Volcker once raised short-term interest rates above 15% to prevent it.
With the spotlight now focused firmly on the Fed, this weeks' jawboning is just the first act of their attempt to change the subject. If that doesn't work, they might actually be forced to DO something. In particular they will need to act to stymie commodity speculation - which is the portion of the iceberg that everyone can see, as it affects the daily life of nearly everyone. While they are also likely to attempt to prop up the stock market, it will be tough to do both at the same time since commodity producers and related firms have been a key driver of the new equity bubble.
With private lending in the US essentially dead, the government is the sole source of credit growth right now. If the debt limit interferes with further bubble finance at the same time as the Fed is forced to try and look responsible, the speculative markets could be in for a rough ride indeed.