Does the Federal Reserve Board have a coherent detailed exit plan from its long-running extraordinary and highly accommodative monetary policy? No. Is it likely to devise one soon? No. Is it nevertheless likely to continue to stress its ability to prudently manufacture and implement a suitable exit program? Yes.
The Fed’s broad and unspecific principles do not create a genuine and practical exit strategy. Neither do fervent hymns proclaiming devotion to its legislative mandate. Neither does rhetoric about studying numerous, intertwining, changing, and complex variables and eloquence regarding its diligent monitoring of the economic landscape. Adherence to forward guidance wordplay is not an adequate substitute for a practical strategy. The Fed’s policy exit generally will be reactive, with its decisions and actions that of a follower rather than a leader.
Why does the Fed battle to create expectations that it has, or at least can and (when necessary) readily will develop, a suitable exit program? The central bank wants audiences to have faith that it can substantially influence the creation of desirable economic outcomes. Exit guidelines fortify marketplace and political hopes that a vigilant, wise, and sufficiently experienced Fed really (or at least very probably) knows how and when it can retreat gracefully from its glorious easy money programs without endangering United States (and worldwide) economic growth and the central bank’s inflation and employment targets.
The Fed’s quest to create confidence in its exit strategy also fights to promote confidence that American interest rates will not rise too far or too fast. Why fear a bear move in debt securities? Higher rates would weigh on economic growth. They would wound owners of US Treasury and other debt securities, which could inspire many “investors” to flee from these marketplaces (especially from longer-dated debt). Such escapes of course could lead to even higher yields. Besides, why risk sitting around awaiting capital loss when the Fed promises higher rates- unless such hikes occur very slowly and with sufficient warning? Given the huge foreign ownership of US Treasury securities, net foreign selling (or even reduced net buying) of them could make funding of the nation’s budget deficits increasingly difficult (especially in later years), particularly as the Fed soon will no longer be ravenously buying US Treasuries.
Moreover, the Fed also does not want a sharp sustained bear tumble in the US stock marketplace. The enormous stock bull move has helped to rebuild household net worth and sparked rises in consumer and business confidence and activity. After the Fed ended the first two rounds of money printing, the S+P 500 dropped. The gradual tapering of its current mammoth debt securities acquisition adventure underlines its fears of another run to the exits by stock owning audiences.
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Exit Strategies- the Fed, US Treasuries, and US Stocks (7-14-14)