Monday, February 27, 2012

We are all QEers now

Richard Nixon famously said in 1971 that we are all Keynesians now. Within a decade, the unintended effects of Keynesian stimulus were plain to see for everyone as inflation raced upwards and out of control.

Today, as the world holds its breath for the results of the ECB's LTRO2 auction later in the week, we are all Quantitative Easers. The Bank of Japan, Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and Bank of England have all embraced quantitative easing, or money printing. Recently, both the BoE and BoJ have announced further rounds of quantitative easing.

In the short run, there are clear benefits to the US federal government of the Fed's ZIRP and quantitative easing. In 2011, the US paid $454 billion in interest payments under ZIRP and, despite skyrocketing debt, interest expect was less than it was in parts of the 1990's.

Moreover, L Randall Wray points out that the Federal Reserve holds assets equal to one-fifth of GDP. What's more, an astounding 50% of its assets have maturities of 10 years or more.

Governments of the developed world are trapped by their central bankers dual policies of ZIRP and QE. If central bankers were to raise rates, interest costs would spiral out of control and overwhelm budgets. Just read Reinhart and Rogoff to see what happens next.

This has resulted in a binary investment environment of risk on, when central bankers are engaged in QE, and risk off, when they are not. The endgame will either inflation or debt default - and I don't know what the result will be.

For investors, this means becoming more tactical in understanding the risk on/risk off backdrop and participating in the trend of the day. Right now, central bankers are engaged in another round of QE around the world. Despite what you may think of the ultimate costs of such policies, the right thing for an investor to do is to party and worry about the consequences later.

Cam Hui is a portfolio manager at Qwest Investment Fund Management Ltd. ("Qwest"). This article is prepared by Mr. Hui as an outside business activity. As such, Qwest does not review or approve materials presented herein. The opinions and any recommendations expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or recommendations of Qwest.

None of the information or opinions expressed in this blog constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security or other instrument. Nothing in this article constitutes investment advice and any recommendations that may be contained herein have not been based upon a consideration of the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific recipient. Any purchase or sale activity in any securities or other instrument should be based upon your own analysis and conclusions. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Either Qwest or Mr. Hui may hold or control long or short positions in the securities or instruments mentioned.

1 comment:

Jack Leibel said...

Thank you for the effort it takes to post your comments and thougts. They are very much appreciated!