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NEW YORK ( ETF Expert) --I'll be honest, I did not see "Helicopter Ben" Bernanke dropping more electronically printed cash on the markets last week.
Did I expect some form of quantitative easing (QE) to occur at some moment in 2012? Absolutely. Everyone did.
Yet, I genuinely believed that the
Federal Reserve would save "shock-n-awe" mortgage-bond purchases for a date shortly after the election.
Sadly, there is little to no evidence that an open-ended program of purchasing bonds with money that didn't exist before will reduce stubbornly high unemployment. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of economists have gone on record to explain that QE is unlikely to help the economy much at all, let alone increase company willingness to ramp up hiring.
Still, there are a number of positives and negatives that may occur alongside open-ended bond purchasing.
On the positive side, the central banks around the world have been successful at reflating asset prices. U.S. common stocks, REITs, high-yield corporates, U.S. Treasuries -- a multitude of asset classes are at multi-year highs.
Moreover, the lower bond yields that the central banks are fighting to maintain appear to have put a floor underneath housing. In sum, the positive in QE may be an increase in the net worth of investors, homeowners and families.
On the other hand, the Fed is counting on the "wealth effect." Bernanke hopes consumers will borrow and spend because they may become more comfortable about their net worth. The problem with that assumption is the reality that the Fed's actions have also pushed food and energy prices much higher. Consumers may need to spend their "excess wealth" at the grocery store and at the gas tank.
Naturally, central bank leaders do not wish to address commodity price inflation. Those who would engineer a bold economic recovery are not likely to take the fall for gasoline prices doubling from their 2009 lows.
While energy stocks have been major laggards over the last 18 months, one should not overlook QE-inspired outperformance by
SPDR Select Energy(XLE). In fact, energy stocks experienced a number of periods of QE-propelled relative strength since early in 2009.