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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's hard to imagine how the market could agree so unanimously on anything other than "losing money is bad." But everywhere you look people are predicting imminent QE3 at this week's Federal Open Market Committee meeting, or at the very least in December. Even Chairman Mao got much more dissent, even at the height of the Cultural Revolution, than this view.
But why? And how?
The five-year inflation expectation has been
on an uptrend ever since Operation Twist2. In fact, it passed above the significant 2% level last Friday.
Indeed, the nonfarm payroll number last Friday was bad, if you decide to focus on the bad part that is. And indeed it is an important data point for the Fed.
But if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture and over a slightly longer time horizon, the U.S. economy is decidedly, unequivocally, ho-hum. It's at least not bad (remember the 8/28 Case-Schilling housing data anyone?), which is the best thing any country can say nowadays.
To expand the Fed balance sheet when inflation expectation is 2%, the economy is mixed, and two months before an election would be unprecedented. It would create a huge risk of inflation and political hailstorm, thus badly damaging the Fed's credibility as well as the future of Ben Bernanke's personal career.
I guess it doesn't cost anything for the Fed to say "we'll maintain a zero interest rate policy indefinitely." Although they'll run out of short-term treasuries to sell by the end of Twist 2, I suppose they could redefine "short-term" and start selling longer-term holdings or even pull a twist on agencies.
Zerohedge pointed out, any significant increase in the Fed's purchase of long-term treasuries or mortgage-backed securities threatens overwhelming the market and exhausting liquidity.
In other words, the market has set itself up for certain and imminent disappointment, on a huge scale.
However, when things are so skewed, there must be some other rational explanation. The best rational explanation I've found so far comes from the always insightful John Dizard,
by way of FT. It goes like this, in my words: