Fed Funds Future Foggy, Fudgy

The stock market is surging on solid corporate profits. Jobs are being created, if a bit slowly. Should the Federal Reserve continue its policy of Quantitative Easing? The short answer is probably not. But the policy of buying $85B in mortgage backed securities is continuing, at least for the foreseeable future. And with Janet Yellen, the Fed Vice Chair, slated to replace Ben Bernanke in January we have every reason to believe that the policy will continue.

It’s time to examine how the Fed sets their benchmark interest rate, the Fed Funds Rate, and what we can reasonable expect them to do with it in the near future. It shows just how much the Fed is really in charge of the economy – absent a Federal Government that is doing what needs to be done.

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Bernanke in Charge

Another Federal Reserve policy meeting, another restatement of the QE3, another big rise on Wall Street.  The breakdown on the Fed’s continuing to buy $85 a month in treasury bills was predictable, if generally wrong and leaving just about everyone to speculate on why, regardless of how plainly the case was made.  Make no mistake about it, though – Ben is still in charge and things are going pretty well in many ways, at least until the showdown on the budget and debt ceiling.

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Professor Bernanke, Again

I think most of us would agree that people who have, say, little formal schooling but labor honestly and diligently to help feed, clothe, and educate their families are deserving of greater respect – and help, if necessary – than many people who are superficially more successful. They’re more fun to have a beer with, too. That’s all that I know about sociology.
– Ben Bernanke

President Obama has made it clear that next January, when his term is up, Chairman Bernanke is going to be replaced.  It’s not like the big guy is being fired, though.  “Ben Bernanke’s done an outstanding job,” Obama said in an interview with Charlie Rose.  “He’s already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to.”  What else would he want to do than to be arguably the most powerful man in the world?  Simple.  The title “Professor Bernanke” always suited him much better than “Chairman Bernanke”.

That’s just about the only thing that his admirers and critics can agree about him  – although the former might laugh it out while the latter would say it though clenched teeth.

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The Real Power

Between the political conventions, the people running for the second most powerful office in the land have to stand down for a moment and let the Big Guy speak.  That would be Ben Bernanke, who delivered his annual address at the Jackson Hole conference today.  You want real power?  If being able to print $1.6T ain’t it, I don’t know what is.

The speech was highly anticipated because in the past the occasion was used to announce rounds of Quantitative Easing.  There was hope there would be a third round of it, which is to say more greenbacks flowing out into the economy hot off the Fed presses.  It didn’t happen.  Bernanke spoke instead about what’s gone wrong and what they’ve done to try to get things to start back up.

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