Fed Announces QE4+, Will Raise Rates When Unemployment Rate Hits 6.5% Or Inflation Rate Hits 2.5% ($SPX Sells Off)

$SPX sold off after QE4+ announcement
The Federal Reserve officially announced QE4+2 yesterday. In addition to asset purchases, the Fed is now tying economic data to the federal funds rate. The FOMC statement said it would consider raising the federal funds rate above 0%-0.25% if the unemployment rate fell to 6.5% or the inflation rate hit 2.5%. During Chairman Bernanke's press conference yesterday (embedded below), he warned about the fiscal cliff and said the Fed didn't have the tools to offset fiscal tightening. Nothing really new.

It looks like traders sold the QE4+ news. The market actually spiked yesterday but closed unchanged/negative. $SPX is down another 0.60% today. Now the market is waiting on a fiscal cliff agreement. $SPX is still above key moving averages but it pierced through the near-term uptrend. Keep an eye on the bull market trend line. Going forward it will be interesting to see how gold, Treasury bonds, the U.S. Dollar and equity indices price in economic growth versus the prospect of tightening. Or if risky assets will even care that much about QE anymore. Are we at the end of the reflation party? And with fiscal tightening coming either way (Ray Dalio yesterday at the DealBook conference), as well as potential volatility ahead for longer-term rates, it seems like we could be in for some surprises soon.

From yesterday's FOMC statement:

Release Date: December 12, 2012

For immediate release
Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in October suggests that economic activity and employment have continued to expand at a moderate pace in recent months, apart from weather-related disruptions. Although the unemployment rate has declined somewhat since the summer, it remains elevated. Household spending has continued to advance, and the housing sector has shown further signs of improvement, but growth in business fixed investment has slowed. Inflation has been running somewhat below the Committee’s longer-run objective, apart from temporary variations that largely reflect fluctuations in energy prices. Longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee remains concerned that, without sufficient policy accommodation, economic growth might not be strong enough to generate sustained improvement in labor market conditions. Furthermore, strains in global financial markets continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook. The Committee also anticipates that inflation over the medium term likely will run at or below its 2 percent objective.

To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee will continue purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month. The Committee also will purchase longer-term Treasury securities after its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of Treasury securities is completed at the end of the year, initially at a pace of $45 billion per month. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and, in January, will resume rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. Taken together, these actions should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.

The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months. If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the Committee will continue its purchases of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until such improvement is achieved in a context of price stability. In determining the size, pace, and composition of its asset purchases, the Committee will, as always, take appropriate account of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases.

To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens. In particular, the Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that this exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored. The Committee views these thresholds as consistent with its earlier date-based guidance. In determining how long to maintain a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy, the Committee will also consider other information, including additional measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments. When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Dennis P. Lockhart; Sandra Pianalto; Jerome H. Powell; Sarah Bloom Raskin; Jeremy C. Stein; Daniel K. Tarullo; John C. Williams; and Janet L. Yellen. Voting against the action was Jeffrey M. Lacker, who opposed the asset purchase program and the characterization of the conditions under which an exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate.

Statement Regarding Purchases of Treasury Securities and Agency Mortgage-Backed Securities (at the New York Federal Reserve)


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