Surviving Fed Madness

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Thursday's madness, the announcement of a third round of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve, sent the S&P 500 up more than 1.6%, and pushed major indices to multi-year highs.

Many praised the move, but it my view, it's yet another stunt that we'll all pay dearly for later. More "funny-money," and more money printing will not, in my opinion, provide what's necessary to bring our economy back to life.

It might make everyone feel good for a while, as Ben Bernanke and his merry bandits use money that we don't have, but that they can print, to go out into the markets and buy $40 billion worth of mortgage-backed paper per month for as long as they need, or want to.

But what do I know; my economic training was in the Austrian School (free market) of Economics.

The dollar weakened upon the announcement; no surprise there. No matter how many times I heard Thursday that the current quantitative easing scheme will not be inflationary, the more I don't believe it. We've already got the prescription for potentially massive inflation, due to all of the easing that's been done in the past several years.

To say that Q3 won't bring on inflation ignores the fact that we were already headed there. You can't print your way out of an economic crisis, and not have repercussions. I'm not sure that we can print ourselves out of this in the first place. But we'll still be left with the fallout.

The Fed, in its infinite wisdom, will keep interest rates (or try) near 0% until 2015. Part of what has so many jazzed about QE3 is the hope that the resulting low mortgage rates will spur some home buying. The truth is, it is a great time to refinance, or take out a mortgage, that is, if you can get a loan. Lending standards have tightened significantly, which is an overall positive, but it's just tougher for many to borrow.

Meanwhile, in this "noninflationary" environment, the prices of nearly everything that we as consumers utilize in our daily lives continue to rise. Gasoline prices are once again flirting with the $4.00 per gallon, mark, and who knows where fuel oil will be this winter?

Food prices continue to rise, and if it's not a straight out price increase, it's "inflation by deflation", a.k.a. smaller package sizes for the same price. The most recent example: the eight-packs of "fun-size" candy bars sold in many area stores, became six-packs for the same price. Candy may not be necessary for survival, but nonetheless, that's 25% inflation, and there is more on the way.

I don't know what exactly it will take to genuinely fire up this economy -- real growth, not a fed-inspired sugar high that wears off quickly -- but I suspect it has a great deal to do with confidence. Businesses that are afraid of what Uncle Sam might do next, that are holding onto the burgeoning amounts of cash on their balance sheets due to the uncertainty, aren't going to do a lot of hiring.

Consumers, whose budgets are already stretched, and who might be unemployed or underemployed, aren't going to be buying homes, or cars.

Commodity prices are once again coming back to life and that should not be a surprise either. While I don't view gold or silver as investments per se, they remain great hedges against uncertainty, against a weakening dollar.

I believe the bull market in each of these metals is resuming and I would not be shocked to see gold breach $2,000 an ounce, and silver back above $40 within the next year, perhaps sooner. If you own either, or both, you can thank Ben Bernanke.

Until Thursday, it appeared as though the Fed had already thrown everything it had toward "fixing" the economy but the proverbial kitchen sink. Today, Bernanke is shopping for a new sink. Maybe he can just print one?

At the time of publication, the author was long gold, silver.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Jonathan Heller, CFA, is president of KEJ Financial Advisors, his fee-only financial planning company. Jon spent 17 years at Bloomberg Financial Markets in various roles, from 1989 until 2005. He ran Bloomberg's Equity Fundamental Research Department from 1994 until 1998, when he assumed responsibility for Bloomberg's Equity Data Research Department. In 2001, he joined Bloomberg's Publishing group as senior markets editor and writer for Bloomberg Personal Finance Magazine, and an associate editor and contributor for Bloomberg Markets Magazine. In 2005, he joined SEI Investments as director of investment communications within SEI's Investment Management Unit.

Jon is also the founder of the Cheap Stocks Web site, a site dedicated to deep-value investing. He has an undergraduate degree from Grove City College and an MBA from Rider University, where he has also served on the adjunct faculty; he is also a CFA charter holder.