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FOMC Minutes Describe Abrupt About-Face
This afternoon we got the minutes from the last Federal Open Market Committee meeting which took place a few weeks ago. This was the meeting where the Federal Reserve did what is now being described as probably the biggest policy shift in the history of the Fed. This was really an abrupt about-face, where they went from “Everything is great; we’re going to keep on raising interest rates, and we are on auto-pilot – we are going to let the balance sheet continue to decline.” All of a sudden, now they’re “patient”, meaning they’re not going to raise rates at all in the foreseeable future, and not only is the balance sheet reduction program no longer on auto pilot, but it is now going to end prematurely sometime this year.
Fed Balance Sheet North of $4 Trillion
Of course, the balance sheet is still north of $4 trillion, and if the reduction program comes to an end this year, you’re still going to be talking about a balance sheet $3.5 to $4 trillion in size. This would mean that almost all of the mortgages and treasuries which the Federal Reserve purchased in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis as part of its Quantitative Easing Programs, 1,2&3. Almost all of that debt will remain on its balance sheet after the Fed has finished shrinking it. Also, FOMC officials are now talking about Quantitative Easing once again as just another tool in the Fed’s tool box. It’s no longer something that will pulled out for an emergency, it’s just going to be a normal policy tool for the Fed to deal with recession. Of course, that’s going to be their main tool, given that this next recession is going to start when interest rates are at 2.25%. So there is not a lot of room for the Fed to try to artificially stimulate the economy when it hardly has any room to reduce rates.
Quantitative Easing is Debt Monetization
Of course, what does that mean about the Fed’s balance sheet? That means the balance sheet will ultimately be much higher than it was when it began its current Operation Quantitative Tightening. We will be higher than we were before it started. All this does is confirm what I’ve been saying all along, that Quantitative Easing is Debt Monetization.