Fed sends global markets reeling


Inquiring minds are reading about the negative effect The Fed is having on world markets.

Wall Street and Western bourses have until now brushed aside worries that recovery in the US, Japan and southern Europe may be stalling – as have commodity markets – betting the lords of finance will come to the rescue with more liquidity if needed.

Equity investors learned this week that they had misjudged the risk of a relapse as fiscal stimulus wears off, and misread the willingness of the US Federal Reserve to respond. Wrongly viewing Ben Bernanke’s Fed as a soft touch, they took a fresh blast of quantitative easing for granted before it was agreed.

What has emerged since the acrimonious Fed meeting on August 10 is that Bernanke was unable to marshal a consensus behind fresh QE. Seven members argued that Fed should not take such a drastic step until the economy was in serious trouble, according to Wall Street Journal Fed-watcher Jon Hilsenrath.

They settled on a compromise that the Fed should roll over holdings of bonds as they reach maturity to avoid passive tightening. But there was no deal on further action. Philadelphia’s Charles Plosser grumbled that the Fed had sent “a garbled message”.

More ominously, some Fed officials fear the central bank is already “pushing on a string” and does not have the means to revive the economy. Whether or not they are right, this comes as a psychological shock for investors schooled by the “Greenspan Put’ into thinking that there is a deus ex machina in the wings.

And housing was mentioned:

In the US, the 27pc collapse in existing homes sales in July leaves no doubt that America’s property market cannot stand on its own feet without the prop of homebuyer tax credits. “Home sales are in free-fall. These are truly dismal numbers,” said Teunis Brosens from ING.”

Notice how it is always back to housing?

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