WINDERMERE, Fla. ( Stockpickr) -- The end of quantitative easing is quickly approaching, and investors need to be prepared for how the markets will behave once the Federal Reserve stops its bond-buying program.
In just 24 days, the Fed will have completed its controversial stimulus program in which it bought $600 billion in Treasuries beginning back in November 2010. There's no debating that QE lifted U.S. equity prices and helped to maintain low interest rates. That said, the new debate that's going to play out now is whether or not QE actually helped or hurt the economy.
Fears that QE might have had little effect on the overall U.S. economy were fueled with Friday's jobs report. The Labor Department report showed that only 54,000 jobs were created in May, vs. a rise in nonfarm payrolls of 232,000 jobs in April. The report also showed that the unemployment rate jumped to 9.1% in May from 9% in April.
Why has all of the QE the Fed has initiated had such little effect so far on the U.S. economy? The simple answer is the events did not unfold as the Fed had hoped. The Fed wanted to see banks lend money and for large companies to hire new workers. Instead, corporations did little hiring and used their cash for strategic takeovers. The banks hoarded cash and instead of lending, raised their credit standards so high that few consumers were able to borrow money.Related: 5 Strength Plays for June's Weak Market The only winners off of all of the QE were the speculators in things such as soft commodities, gold, silver and U.S. equities. The U.S. dollar was a big loser, as were retirees who received little return on their savings that they had worked so hard for. All of the cheap cash found its way onto Wall Street, where liquidity is always king. Hedge funds and other large speculators used the easy money to put on their favorite "risk-on" trades to take advantage of QE. That excessive liquidity is what drove silver to close to $50 and gold to over $1,500 an ounce.