Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has reassured us that his quantitative easing (QE) efforts have been an asset for both Wall Street and Main Street. But for some odd reason, the benefits seem to be trickling upward.
Over the last four years, the S&P 500 has climbed 150%. During the same time frame, the number of Americans receiving food stamps has risen 113% to 47 million, or one-sixth of the American population.
As a broader measure, since the Great Recession began, the top one percent of earners have seen their incomes rise 31.4%, while the bottom 99% saw their earnings rise 0.4%. This translates into the top one percent capturing 95% of the total growth in American wealth during the so-called recovery.
Even those Americans who thought they planned responsibly for retirement have been caught flat-footed. Thanks to QE and artificially low interest rates, the Federal Reserve has taken “income” out of “fixed income” investments and made saving for retirement that much harder.
And with “QE Infinity” in play, it’s not going to get any easier. According to a new global study, one in eight workers say they will never be able to fully retire. It’s worse in the U.S. and the U.K., where the numbers sit at roughly 20%. (Source: “The Future of Retirement: Life after Work?,” HSBC.com, September 2013.)
On top of that, just 51% of American workers say they were “very” or “somewhat” confident that they would have enough money to live comfortably in retirement; in 1995, that number was 72%. That said, 51% actually seems a little optimistic when you consider that 57% of workers say … Read More
At 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank would, in the eternal quest for job creation and economic growth, continue to buy $85.0 billion a month in bonds. In other words, its third round of quantitative easing (QE III) is charging ahead unabated.
A few minutes later, The New York Times declared, “In Surprise, Fed Decides Not to Curtail Stimulus Effort.” USA Today proclaimed, “Fed delays taper, surprising markets,” while The Guardian said, “Federal Reserve maintains bond-buying stimulus in surprise move.”
Are economic analysts looking at different data than the rest of us? Back on August 29, I predicted the Federal Reserve wouldn’t begin to taper its quantitative easing until early 2014 at the earliest. That was because all of the economic indicators steering the data dependent on quantitative easing policies were nowhere close to being achieved.
For starters, the Federal Reserve said the unemployment rate “remains elevated.” For the Federal Reserve to begin tapering its QE policy, unemployment would have to fall to 6.5%. In August, the unemployment rate held stubbornly high at 7.3%.
The Federal Reserve also wants the U.S. rate of inflation to rise to two percent; after eight months, it’s stuck at one percent. For the Fed to consider tapering, the rate needs to at least double in just a few months—which isn’t going to happen, especially when you look at stagnant wages. Lastly, a new Federal Reserve chairman will be taking the helm in early 2014; Bernanke isn’t going to want to tarnish his reputation or disrupt the U.S. economy before then.
If the Federal Reserve is as good … Read More
While the S&P 500 continues to perform well, the markets have been skittish since May 22, when the Federal Reserve hinted it might consider tapering its $85.0-billion-per-month bond-buying program. If Ben Bernanke begins to curtail Wall Street’s monthly allowance, there are fears the markets will not be able to stand on their own economic merit.
Granted, many don’t think the Fed will begin tapering in 2013; this may account for the S&P 500’s solid, yet volatile run. The same can’t be said for emerging markets.
Investors have pulled over $22.0 billion from emerging-market bond funds since the end of April. This has lifted emerging-market bond yields by 1.4 percentage points, almost the most in five years.
Borrowing costs have been on the rise from record lows as speculation swirls around when the Federal Reserve will begin to cut back its quantitative easing measures—this also means the end of artificially low interest rates. This matters to emerging markets, because it signals the end of cheap money that’s been propping up asset prices in countries like India, China, and Indonesia.
Those investors who diversified their retirement fund with emerging-market exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have been in for a rough ride. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index (NYSE/EEM) is down eight percent year-to-date.
One of the few places where the Federal Reserve’s sphere of quantitative easing influence is muted is in the world of frontier markets. Frontier markets refer to countries such as Argentina, Kenya, Qatar, and Vietnam—those markets that are in the early stages of development. Frontier markets are an attractive opportunity for investors, because they represent a long-term economic growth possibility. And there … Read More
America’s favorite sugar daddy, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, has once again come to Wall Street’s rescue. The U.S. Federal Reserve said that while the economy continues to recover, it is still in need of support. As a result, it will continue its $85.0 billion-per-month bond-buying program unabated. (Source: “Federal Reserve Issues FOMC Statement,” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System web site, July 31, 2013.)
Before the markets opened Wednesday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that second-quarter U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) expanded at a faster-than-expected pace of 1.7%; that’s up from a revised 1.1% in the first quarter. (Source: “National Income and Product Accounts Gross Domestic Product, second quarter 2013 (advance estimate),” Bureau of Economic Analysis web site, July 31, 2013.)
Despite the better-than-expected results, the Federal Reserve said that the U.S. economy expanded at a modest pace during the first six months of the year, and that the overall economic picture remains lackluster.
To help quell nervous investors, the Federal Reserve also revised the unemployment rate at which it would consider raising interest rates to six percent; previously, the Federal Reserve had said it would raise interest rates once the jobless rate hit 6.5%. Needless to say, with unemployment sitting at 7.6%, the U.S. economy has a long way to go.
Lower long-term interest rates are supposed to encourage consumers and businesses to take out loans for homes, new equipment, etc. At the same time, banks have been reluctant to lend to those who need it the most, which is reflected on Wall Street. Thanks to the Federal Reserve’s $85.0-billion-per-month quantitative easing policy, the S&P … Read More