NEW YORK ( ETF Expert) -- Back on Sept. 14, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke shocked and "awe-struck" the investing world.
The U.S. Fed did not merely embark on another bond-buying binge as it had in previous versions of quantitative easing (i.e., QE1, QE2). Whereas the earlier iterations had specific dates, QE3 is open-ended.
Bernanke has made it clear the Fed will continue to create dollars electronically and then purchase mortgage-backed bonds for as long as it takes to accomplish their objective. (What's the objective again? Full employment? Price stability a la "acceptable" inflation?)
Over the course of the last four years, the Fed has essentially kept interest rates at negligible levels. The Fed has also bought Treasuries and mortgage-backed bonds, as well as rolled short-dated maturities into longer-dated maturities. It has done so with dollars created out of thin air.
The actions have resulted in consistently declining mortgage rates, higher stock and commodity prices as well as recent home price stabilization. Those haven't been bad things for investors. Not in the short term, anyway.
Still, is the "wealth effect" actually creating jobs?
If you listen to Bernanke speak, he believes the Fed has succeeded in stimulating job growth through an increase in real estate-related activity. However, the evidence that lower interest rates are actually enhancing the job picture is suspect at best.
Consider the "stats" from initial Federal Reserve QE policy (circa November 2008) through the end of September 2012. The most reliable statistic for employment is the labor force participation rate, which tells us the percentage of working-age adults who are employed. That number sits near a 30-year low at 63.6%, which is certainly not better than when the Fed first began its QE policies several years ago.
Didn't the Bureau of Labor Statistics just report the U.S. created 114,000 new jobs in September and the unemployment rate fell from 8.1% to 7.8%? Doesn't that suggest the Fed's monetary policies are beginning to have a positive impact?
While the headline unemployment rate may help the White House politically, the number would be 9.8% when one factors in the number of working-aged people who have stopped participating; they're neither looking for employment nor receiving unemployment compensation. When one follows other labor statistic measures like U-6 -- measures that chronicle the underemployed -- the number is 14.7%.