Friday, January 4, 2013

The Bonds That Divide Us

At the Fed, there are three schools of thought
On the bonds that Bernanke has bought:
A) keep on going,
B) begin slowing,
Or C) we would rather have not.

Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee's December meeting were released on Thursday, and they reveal the divisions among the members on the Fed's policy of buying mortgage and Treasury bonds to stimulate the economy. Following that meeting, on December 12, the Fed announced that it would continue with the bond purchases until the pace of job creation improved. Yet, the minutes show that the "hawks" on the committee fundamentally disagreed with the entire program and, even among those who supported it, there was disagreement over its timeline. Those who wanted an open-ended monthly commitment to add $85 billion to the Fed's balance sheet were most concerned with allowing the stimulus to have its intended effect, while those who worried about the risk of adding so much to the Fed's own investment portfolio wanted to bring the program to a mid-2013 close.

However, Diane Swonk of Mesirow Financial tells the New York Times that "there’s still a huge bias toward buying." Any appearance of dissension, according to Ms. Swonk, reflects merely "modest misgivings in the middle of the most aggressive effort the Fed has ever undertaken to stimulate the economy."

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