A hat tip to rock-star Alphaville alum Tracy Alloway for passing along this chart from The Socionomics Institute, now updated to include last week’s release of the 2008 transcripts (click to enlarge):
From a passage at the beginning of the December 2008 meeting transcript, where Ben Bernanke explains the difference between Japanese quantitative easing and the Fed’s combination of funding facilities, backstops and QE1 (which included agency debt and agency MBS):
In some respects our policies are similar to the quantitative easing of the Japanese, but I would argue that, when you look at it more carefully, what we’re doing is fundamentally different from the Japanese approach. Let me talk about that a bit. Read more
Given the release of the 2008 FOMC transcripts, the St Louis Fed has shrewdly tweeted a speech from last year by its president, James Bullard, arguing that the real-time economic data in 2008 was badly trailing events.
The FOMC transcripts show that Bullard, as late as September 2008, was as worried about high inflation as about the possibility of a deep and protracted downturn. Read more
The Fed’s December transcript reveals some interesting foresight by Philadelphia Fed president Charles Plosser in discussions about how the Fed should communicate its regime shift (i.e. that it was moving away from targeting the Fed Funds rate towards using base money, balance sheet and other quantitative measures as its primary tools).
In the transcript, Plosser refers to the fact that near-zero rates and unconventional policy will eventually have to be overturned, and that this could be a tricky challenge for the Fed when the time comes. Nevertheless, he also notes that when it comes to the Fed’s balance sheet, the introduction of interest on excess reserves (a.k.a a floor system) means the Fed can in theory continue to control rates without shrinking its balance sheet at all for some time. Read more
Janet Yellen was less worried than some of her FOMC colleagues in September 2008 that high inflation would remain a problem, and she was also more bearish on the economic outlook:
My contacts also report that their businesses are still raising prices in response to past increases in commodity and import prices that boosted their costs. I expect as a consequence that core inflation will remain uncomfortably high for a while longer, but the marked decline in commodity prices since June reinforces my conviction that there is light at the end of this inflation tunnel. … Read more
Further insights into the Fed’s financial-crisis priorities by way of the December 2008 FOMC meeting transcript, released this Friday. This time we refer to their discussion about the possible unintended side-effects of zero-lower bound policy and in particular the spike in Treasury fails that was occurring at the time.
It’s worth reminding that at the time, only a few market commenters really understood the implications and severity of a spike in Treasury fails to deliver/receive. Read more
The Fed’s 2008 transcripts offer an impressive insight into the state of the repo markets in 2008, not least the shortage of safe US assets, which it turns out was a key area of concern in Fed gatherings.
We’ll have more on some of the other repo elements, but in the meantime — given that we’ve raised the idea that China might be inclined to repo its UST stock with the Fed if it needs short-term dollar liquidity (or is possibly doing so already) — it’s worth noting the following exchange from the October 2008 transcript in which the committee wondered about the nature of collateral they should accept for emergency dollar swap lines with foreign central banks.
Rather than collateralising with their own currency the idea was raised that they should pledge their UST stock instead. Voila, an open precedent for sovereign-level repo arrangements with the Fed so as to ease the shortage of safe asset problem in the West whilst at the same time flooding dollar liquidity to foreign markets. Read more
Finally. FINALLY. They’re here, and we’ll be back later with excerpts and analysis.