Why the Fed Is So Desperate to Hide Price Inflation
Speaking at the Jackson Hole meeting on August 27, 2021, Federal Reserve (Fed) chairman Jerome J. Powell indicated that he supported “tapering” toward the end of this year and hastened to add that interest rate hikes are still a long way off. The term “tapering” means that the central bank reduces its monthly purchases of bonds and slows down the monthly increase in the quantity of money accordingly. In other words, even with tapering, the Fed will still churn out newly printed US dollar balances, but to a lesser extent than before; that is, it will still cause monetary inflation, but less than before.
Financial markets were not alarmed by the Fed’s announcement that it might take its foot off the accelerator pedal a little: ten-year US Treasury yields are still trading at a relatively low level of 1.3 percent, the S&P 500 stock index hovers around record highs. Could it be that investors do not believe in the Fed’s suggestion that tapering will begin soon? Or is tapering of much lower importance for financial market asset prices and economic activity going forward than we think? Well, I believe the second question nails it. To understand this, we need to point out that the Fed has put a “safety net” under financial markets.
As a result of the politically dictated lockdown crisis in early 2020, investors feared a collapse of the economic and financial system. Credit markets, in particular, went wild. Borrowing costs skyrocketed as risk premiums rose drastically. Market liquidity dried up, putting great pressure on borrowers in need of funding. It wasn’t long before the Fed said it would underwrite the credit market, that it would open the monetary spigots and issue all the money needed to fund government agencies, banks, hedge funds, and businesses. The Fed’s announcement did what it was supposed to do: credit markets calmed down. Credit started flowing again; system failure was prevented.
In fact, the Fed’s creation of a safety net is nothing new. It is perhaps better known as the “Greenspan put.” During the 1987 stock market crash, then Fed chairman Alan Greenspan lowered interest rates drastically to help stock prices recover—and thus set a precedent that the Fed would come to rescue in financial crises. (The term “put” describes an option which gives its holder the right, but not the obligation, to sell t
Article from Mises Wire