The end of US quantitative easing: What does it mean?

By Tylor Claggett
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 12, 2014
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Recently, the U.S. Federal Reserve officially announced an end to the third round of quantitative easing, known as QE3, which has been the centerpiece of the Fed’s program to remedy the primary negative consequences of the financial crisis of 2008-09.

"Quantitative easing" is a term in the Fed’s jargon that refers to creating a more favorable environment for economic recovery by increasing the nation’s money supply.

QE2, which preceded QE3, was initiated in the fourth quarter of 2010 as part of the Fed’s second phase of its program to improve the slowly recovering U.S. economy. In QE2, the Fed bought $600 billion in U.S. Treasury securities over the nine months following the launch of the program.

Theoretically, this should have stimulated the economy by lowering interest rates, which would in turn encourage businesses to expand and hire more employees. After QE2 failed to deliver the hoped-for results, the Fed implemented QE3, which was similar to QE2, though much bolder. QE3 was to be in effect “as long as it takes” to foster an economic rebound. Furthermore, QE3 called for a massive bond buying rate of $40 billion per month. Because QE3 lacked an end date, at the planned buy rate, it would exceed QE2 in 15 months, by the third quarter of 2013. However, the bottom line is that despite QE3, there have at best been mixed signs of a viable recovery.

Now that QE3 is over, pundits are trying their best to figure out the consequences of this decision. Although I do not consider myself an expert, I have never shied away from sharing my opinions with those willing to listen, so here goes.

The mixed signs include an improved unemployment rate (currently at 5.9 percent), but a record low employment participation rate. QE3 has certainly not produced enough high-paying jobs to promote increased consumer spending and a better housing market, nor has it created significant business expansion or substantial additions to the nation’s infrastructure, both of which provide better long-term prosperity.

Instead, QE3 has led to enormous amounts of cash on corporate balance sheets – so much cash, in fact, that many corporations have initiated stock buy-back plans, increased dividends, acquisitions and spin-offs as ways to put money into the hands of investors. Investors may be benefiting from improved stock prices, but employees are not. These recent economic trends have widened the gap between the “have nots” and the “haves” to an historic level.

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