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Fed’s Tapering Talk Continues, Bond Buying Could Ease By Summer


In love, it has been said, it is not so much what you say, but what you do that matters. In short, actions speak louder than words. For Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke however, the opposite is true.

For many in the investment world, the fact that the Fed is even talking about ''tapering'' its $85 billion a month bond buying habit is more consequential than the actual cutbacks will be, if and when that finally happens.

This, as the minutes from the Open Market Committee's meeting last month have once again revealed a rift within the ranks when it comes to continuing, curtailing or killing QE (quantitative easing) as we know it.

Related: The Last Thing Left for the Fed to Do

As my co-host Jeff Macke and I discuss in the attached video, the fact that the propeller heads that make up the FOMC are debating the "Efficacy and Costs of Asset Purchases" is not only warranted, it would be absurd if they did not. While the days of unanimity amongst the board are long gone, the overwhelming majority back Bernanke and want to keep things exactly as they are as long as conditions warrants.

Do some members feel the bond-buying is risky and should be cut off immediately? You bet. But a few also think the elevated unemployment level continues to pose a risk and therefore would like to see the asset purchase program increased. In the Fed's own words, "a range of views was expressed regarding the economic and labor market conditions that would call for an adjustment in the pace of purchases."

It is foolish to expect the Fed to commit to a time table for its future bond buying in advance of actual economic data and market conditions. Nothing illustrates the changing economic reality more clearly than last week's suddenly shocking payroll report. Things can and do change and the Fed needs to react to these condition in real time, rather than before hand.

So the next time you're wondering if and when the era of easing is going to end, just remember these two words: it depends.