Should the Fed’s Expansionary Policies Be Ended?

No, but they should be more systematic. The problem with the QEs all along is that they have been rather ad-hoc and unpredictable. This has made them less effective and politically polarizing. Imagine how different the Fed’s monetary stimulus would have been had they adopted an explicit target, preferably a nominal GDP level target. Such an approach would have given them the freedom to do really aggressive ‘catch-up’ monetary easing until nominal GDP returned to the targeted trend while at the same time ensuring long-term predictability. It also would be viewed (correctly) as constraining the Fed’s power.

Instead we are stuck with the problematic QE programs that have been at best mildly effective and as result, are an easy target for critics. Thus, it is no surprise to learn from Robin Harding of the FT that the Fed is about to signal the end of monetary easing:

An end to global monetary policy easing is on the horizon, with the US Federal Reserve set to signal it will cease asset purchases at the end of June.

When the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee meets on April 27, it is unlikely to limit its options by ruling out asset purchases beyond the second $600bn “quantitative easing” programme – or “QE2” – that is due to finish by the end of the second quarter.

Fed officials, however, know that announcing more asset purchases at the last minute would disrupt markets. Silence on a follow-up “QE3” at next week’s meeting would therefore signal that their current intention is to complete the $600bn QE2 programme and then stop.

One reason the Fed is contemplating this is because the QE programs have not delivered a robust recovery and have become a political minefield. This does not mean monetary policy could not do more if done right. There is still evidence of excess money demand problem that the Fed could meaningfully address through a nominal GDP level target. With U.S. fiscal tightening nearing and Eurozone problems lingering, the Fed needs a nominal GDP level target now more than ever.

About David Beckworth 240 Articles

Affiliation: Texas State University

David Beckworth is an assistant professor of economics at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.

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