This week’s Federal Reserve meeting is significant not just because it’s Ben Bernanke’s last as chairman. In addition, the two-day confab will indicate the Fed’s commitment to the plan it initiated in December: to taper its quantitative easing program by $10 billon per month.
“If incoming information broadly supports the Committee's expectation of ongoing improvement in labor market conditions and inflation is moving back toward its longer-run objective, the Committee will likely reduce the pace of asset purchases in further measured steps at future meetings,” the Federal Open Market Committee declared in its December statement. “However, asset purchases are not on a preset course…”
Given recent upheaval in the financial markets — most notably in emerging markets — as well as the disappointing U.S. jobs report for December the Fed “could skip this meeting,” says Daniel Alpert, managing partner at Westwood Capital. “But I don’t think they will — the reason is they realize QE has no beneficial returns to the economy as a whole.”
Quantitative easing help stabilize the financial markets — “that was good….and scared everyone into equities, which worked for the benefit of some,” Alpert says. Now, “the benefits of quantitative easing “has passed its sell-by date and it's time to get rid of it.”
Criticizing the efficacy of QE is wildly popular these days. But Alpert’s view on what happens as the Fed continues to reduce and eventually ends its purchases is contrary to popular wisdom: He believes interest rates will fall, not rise, when QE runs its course.
In the aftermath of QE, the global interest rate market will “re-animate to the low growth, lack of demand, oversupply kind of market we’ve had in the macro world for a long time,” he says, referring to the theme of his latest book: The Age of Oversupply.
Citing the upheaval in emerging markets and the related issue of China’s recent manufacturing slowdown, Alpert believes the forces of deflation are beginning to reassert themselves; these trends will become more evident in interest rates once the Fed has exited the QE scene, he says.
While still up significantly from last year’s lows, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury has retreated more than 25 basis points since hitting 3% earlier this month.
Watch the accompanying video for more from Alpert and find out what statistic he thinks Janet Yellen will be most focused on in 2014.