Monday, September 3, 2012

Bernanke Hawk Down

David Glasner catches the Fed Chairman in an elementary error in monetary logic (which has had large consequences for the rest of us); conducting monetary policy with a focus on interest rates;
If the Fed has succeeded in driving down the yields on long term assets [through quantitative easing], it is because the Fed has driven down expectations of future inflation or has caused expectations of future real rates to fall.
....any signal by the central bank about the future path of the federal funds rate is ambiguous insofar as it reflects both a signal about the central bank’s assessment of the public’s demand for accommodation and the central bank’s supply of accommodation conditional on that assessment. When the central bank announces that its lending rate will remain close to zero for another year, that doesn’t mean that the central bank is planning to adopt a more accommodative policy stance unless the central bank provides other signals about what its assessment of, or target for, the economy is.  The only way to provide such a signal would be to announce a higher target for inflation or for NGDP, thus providing a context within which its lending rate can be meaningfully interpreted.  And a signal that increases household and business confidence by diminishing concerns about deflation should not be associated with falling nominal interest rates and falling inflation expectations — precisely the result that Bernanke feels that earlier rounds of QE have accomplished. Actually, the initial success of QE2 was associated with rising long-term rates and rising inflation expectations. It was only when the program petered out, after adverse supply shocks caused a temporary blip in commodity prices and CPI inflation in the spring of 2011, that real interest rates and inflation expectations began to drift downwards again.
Which is Friedman 101.  Interest rates are NOT the price of money.

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