This week’s meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) had traders, market commentators and investors almost in a frenzy as they tried to predict the outcome. This was the meeting where economists expected the Fed to announce the ‘tapering’ of its monthly purchases of $85 billion of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed bonds. According to a Bloomberg News survey of 34 economists last week, they expected the Federal Reserve to taper its monthly bond buying by $10 billion, to $75 billion.1 But they were wrong.
Market reaction was harsh when Mr. Bernanke suggested in June that it would be “appropriate to moderate the monthly pace of purchases later this year [and] continue to reduce the pace of purchases in measured steps through the first half of next year, ending purchases around mid-year”. The real damage was felt by the bond market with the yield on the 10-year note increasing from 2.16% to as high as 3%. This 39% increase in yield had bond investors facing an annual loss for only the third time in 33 years.2 However, after guiding towards a reduction in stimulus for the last four months ‘tapering’ was not to be – at least not yet.
The FOMC “decided to await more evidence that progress will be sustained before adjusting the pace of its purchases”.3 They concluded that “downside risks” to the outlook have diminished, the tightening of financial conditions observed in recent months, if sustained, could slow the pace of improvement.”4 Gold and silver rocketed upwards and the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were both pushed to new all-time nominal highs. In fact, monetary accommodation in 2013 is much larger than the headlines would suggest.
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