5 Tough Questions for the Fed's Bernanke
The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.
By Richard Band
ROCKVILLE, Md. (InvestorPlace) -- The clock is ticking on Ben "Bubbles" Bernanke. Come June 30, the Federal Reserve chairman's latest "quantitative easing" program (QE2) is scheduled to end. The big question on everyone's mind is: What happens after June 30? Will government bond yields explode?
A number of respected commentators, including bond king Bill Gross of PIMCO, are bracing for the worst and it's not hard to see why. Certainly, the Federal Reserve's behavior in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis has exceeded, in sheer recklessness, anything attempted by any central bank in history.First, the Fed stuffed its balance sheet with more than $1 trillion of dodgy mortgages (purchased with money created out of thin air). Then last November, well over a year after the economy supposedly pulled out of recession, Bernanke's crew voted to buy another $600 billion of Treasury paper. This massive money printing has undermined global confidence in the dollar's purchasing power. One result: A sharp jump in commodity prices, including gold, oil and, most recently, foodstuffs. Is Bernanke happy with things? You have to wonder. But as the Federal Reserve chairman takes the podium today in the central bank's first-ever press conference, there are far more direct questions on my mind for him. Here are five that I would like the answer to: How much "quantitative easing" is enough? Abe Lincoln supposedly said, "You can't fool all the people all the time." I might add: "You don't have to -- a majority will do." And, sure enough, markets have moved about 12% higher since the announcement of QE2 almost six months ago. But, wait, this wasn't supposed to happen: When the Federal Reserve launched its latest bond-buying program (QE2) on Nov. 4, the yield on the 10-year T-note stood at 2.48%. By February, the benchmark yield had soared as high as 3.72%, a whopping 50% increase. If QE2 was supposed to keep rates down (as you promised), it has been a flop. Mr. Bernanke, your $600 billion QE2 program clearly smacks of a desperation tactic, ill grounded in economic theory or historical experience. Over the past 10 years, Japan has repeatedly failed to spark its moribund economy by monetizing government debt. Why should the same gimmick work here?
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