Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How the Fed Depressed the Recovery (excerpt)

In my opinion, the Fed has significantly contributed to the weakness of the current economic expansion as follows:

(1) By keeping interest rates near zero for so long, risk-averse savers have had to accept bupkis for returns on their liquid assets, which rose to a record $10.7 trillion during the week of May 11. Many of them have been saving more, thus spending less. The 12-month sum of personal saving has been running around $700 billion since the end of the financial crisis in 2008, double the pace during the 1990s and the first half of the previous decade.

(2) Ultra-easy money attracted investors rather than nesters into the housing market following the 2008 crisis. They bought up all the cheap homes and drove home prices back up to levels that may be unaffordable for many first-time homebuyers.

(3) As I’ve discussed many times over the past year, thanks to the Fed, corporate bond yields have been trading below the S&P 500’s forward earnings yield since 2004, providing companies with an incentive to buy back their shares and engage in M&A rather than invest in plant and equipment.

Cheap money did stimulate some business investment, but the increased capacity wasn’t matched by more demand, resulting in some deflationary pressures. Stock prices have soared, but this has exacerbated the perception of widespread income and wealth inequality.

Today's Morning Briefing: Tiptoe Through the Soft Patch. (1) Tiny Tim and Janet Yellen. (2) Is the Great Recession over yet? (3) ECI wages get a footnote. (4) Yellen still worrying about underwater homes. (5) Three abating headwinds. (6) Fed sees 2.5% real GDP growth ahead. (7) Yellen is in one-and-done camp. (8) What’s the matter with Kansas? (9) Are the headwinds abating? (10) Here is how the Fed’s policies have depressed consumer and business spending, and housing activity. (11) What’s the matter with the dollar, bonds, and stocks? (More for subscribers.)

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