NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In response to a severe recession and worsening unemployment in 2009, the U.S. Federal Reserve embarked on its controversial program of bond purchases. However, the U.S. Federal Reserve electronically created new money out of thin air to make those bond purchases, weakening the value of the U.S. dollar for years and causing many to question the value of quantitative easing policies.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the U.S. Fed’s determination to depress bond yields made it more likely that money would flow into riskier assets like stocks and commodities. Even CD and savings account veterans were no longer able to play it completely safe; most had to consider higher-yielding corporate bonds, preferred shares or dividend stocks.
Like many decisions, the Fed’s first two iterations of quantitative easing (i.e., QE1, QE2) had unintended consequences. For one thing, as the Fed electronically printed dollars that hadn’t existed before, currencies around the developing world strengthened and inflation in those emerging markets quickened.
Secondly, and perhaps more notably, the ever-rising and unsustainable debt levels in Europe left the region’s central bank with a dangerous path to follow; that is, in one form of another, the European Central Bank would also try to bail its constituents out through unconventional easing measures and/or bond purchases.Indeed, we’ve already sneaked a peek at how the world intends to loosen credit and quiet stormy financial markets. Back on June 21, the Fed extended its purchasing of longer-dated bonds through “Operation Twist.” Not long after, in an early morning hour of July 5, the ECB and the People’s Bank of China simultaneously lowered benchmark borrowing costs; then the Bank of England raised the level of its own quantitative easing program. In other words, since June 21, every major central bank around the globe has demonstrated a willingness to risk severe inflation. Why? Apparently, there is widespread agreement that action/promises can avoid a global depression as well as civil unrest. Of course, it has been a while since central banks have done anything. And while ”risk-on” stock assets have held up nicely for many months, stock markets may lose patience in September and October. Similarly, Treasury bonds have been so oversubscribed, there may not be enough room for more helium in the balloon.