Ben Bernanke wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post yesterday titled, “What the Fed did and why: supporting the recovery and sustaining price stability.”
I could write very extensively about this piece as it is highly notable on several fronts. For now, I will limit my comments.
My analysis indicates that the risks of QE lack recognition. As well, the benefits appear highly overstated. As such, we (as a nation) appear to have a mistaken understanding of the risk-reward ratio of large-scale QE. This is especially problematical as I expect additional large-scale QE will be done in the future. This belief is echoed by other prominent parties.
What I find interesting about Bernanke’s (and other Fed members’) comments about QE is that they seem very limited in discussing risks of QE. This begs the question as to whether Fed members don’t think there is much risk in QE. From what I have seen, the main risk Fed members have discussed is money supply issues / future inflation as well as the ability to gracefully (i.e. non-disruptively) exit such QE efforts. Bernanke briefly mentions both of these items in his above-mentioned Washington Post op-ed.
However, I view those risks as being only two among a multitude of others. As I wrote in the August 13 post, “There are an array of risks embedded in such QE efforts.” In that post I discuss QE risks to the U.S. Dollar and QE’s role in fostering asset bubbles.
Another risk that receives little recognition is the risks embedded in the ever-increasing size of the Fed’s portfolio. This is a very complex potential risk, entailing both large potential capital losses (driven in large part by rising interest rates) as well as other unintended (negative) consequences. The potential capital losses aspect is well-documented in a Wall Street Journal editorial of today titled “High Rollers at the Fed.”
Both of these risks, as well as the multitude others, will only grow in importance if, as I suspect, additional (over and above Wednesday’s $600B announcement) large QE is performed in the future.
A Special Note concerning our economic situation is found here
SPX at 1222.43 as this post is written