Ben Bernanke brought the monetary bazooka Thursday when the Federal Reserve's policy-making committee announced it was taking action to further dampen interest rates with its third round of quantitative easing. This time, the QE will take the form of purchasing $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities a month until the labor market improves (i.e. indefinitiely).
"If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the committee will continue its purchase of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate until such improvement is achieved in a context of price stability," the FOMC statement said.
While another round of QE was highly anticipated by most economists, the structure of the new asset purchase program wasn't known.
The open-ended nature of this round of QE is a "very aggressive move," says Reuters reporter Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, who joined The Daily Ticker's Henry Blodget to discuss the statement ahead of Ben Bernanke's press conference scheduled for 2:15 p.m. ET.
The Fed also pledged to keep Operation Twist in effect through year-end and to keep interest rates low through mid-2015, months longer than the central bank had previously indicated.
Now that the Fed has spoken, the big debate remains over how successful its initiatives will be in jump-starting the economy.
"We're not sure what the economic effects of this program will be -- it should help growth and employment on the margin -- but of all the announcements the Fed could have made today, this is very nearly one of the most accomodative that could have been reasonably expected," writes BTIG's chief economist Dan Greenhaus in an e-mail note.
Since each new asset program has delivered diminishing returns, many economists and analysts believe QE3 will follow suit with reduced efficacy.
"Of course just lowering interest rates forever is not the most direct way to create employment, but with fiscal policy tied into a complete knot at the moment … you can understand why the Fed, in just basically honoring its dual mandate, would feel compelled [to act] if unemployment is trending in the wrong direction," says da Costa.
In August, the U.S. economy added a lackluster 96,000 jobs while the unemployment rate fell to 8.1%, due in large part to people giving up their search for a job.
Tell us what you think! Do you agree with the Fed's decision to undertake further monetary easing?
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