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Bernanke's True Intentions Revealed

Simon Maierhofer

In the mid-2000s, Alan Greenspan was the hero of the financial world. With his blunt philosophy of inflation, Greenspan was credited for turning the tech-bust into a real estate and financial boom.Following the 2008/2009 meltdown, Greenspan morphed from hero to scapegoat (or for Thanksgiving aficionados; turkey to feather duster).Another Turkey to Feather Duster Roundtrip?Bernanke carried on the torch of fearless Keynesian Fed Presidents and made it on the cover of Time magazine within his first term. Much ink has been spilled about the effects and side effects of quantitative easing in general and QE2 in particular (click here if you care to read my two cents worth). Actions speak louder than words, and the initial reaction by stocks and commodities has been net-positive (at least when going back to the initial announcement), which is exactly what the financial alchemists in Washington wanted to see; but, what about the economy or the unemployed? Obviously, that's only a secondary concern.According to Bernanke (quoted in the Washington Post), inflating stock prices is the golden grail of today's monetary policy: 'Higher stock prices will boost consumer wealth and help increase confidence, which can also spur spending. Increased spending will lead to higher incomes and profits that, in a virtuous circle, will further support economic expansion.'QE2 - Unfair for Many ReasonsPerhaps it's been lost to Mr. Bernanke that the Fed actively inflating asset prices has a number of unfair side effects.1) Wall Street banksters' get to profit from their mistakes that led to the sub-prime debacle.2) Retail investors have been withdrawing money from mutual funds for two years. The effect of higher stock prices is lost to many.3) Artificially depressing interest rates takes away wealth from savers and distributes it to borrowers. Who are today's savers? Retirees and near-retirees. In fact, this group accounts for more individuals (and lost spending power) than ever before.What effect has the Federal Reserve's monetary policy had on jobless Americans? Let's examine the facts:August 2007: Fed lowered discount rate, unemployment rate at 4.7%December 2008: Fed reduced rates to just north of zero, unemployment rate at 7.4%.March 2009: Fed launches QE1, unemployment rate at 8.6%.November 2010: Fed launches QE2, unemployment rate at 9.6%.Making the Rich Richer and the Poor PoorerWhile large cap (NYSEArca: IVV - News), mid cap (NYSEArca: MDY - News), small cap (NYSEArca: IWM - News), international (NYSEArca: EFA - News), emerging market stocks (NYSEArca: EEM - News) and commodities are brewing their own Fed sponsored bubble, the jobless are left in the dust. Would there have been anyway to help them?Our infrastructure (streets and bridges) is literally rotting away beneath our tires. $600 billion (as in $600 billion QE2) would have been enough money to employ 4 million construction workers at $75,000/year for two years.Going this route would provide jobs for the hardest hit sector, increase morale and social status and distribute money to the consumer so he can do what he does best - consume. The labor cost of such an infrastructure repair program would be far less than $600 billion because the government wouldn't have to pay unemployment benefits to Americans who could be employed.Going the Japan RouteThe United States' current predicament is not unique, it happened before. Not in the U.S., but in Japan (NYSEArca: EWJ - News). Following a late 1980s real estate bust, Japan's Nikkei has gone nowhere but down (aside from counter trend rallies, some massive, but nonetheless trumped by the bear market).The chart below illustrates Japan's pain. The April 2010 ETF Profit Strategy Newsletter, includes an in-depth analysis of the similarities between the two scenarios.One of the few differences is that Japan's breakdown occurred amidst a roaring global bull market. The U.S. bear market isn't that lucky, as it parallels an escalating European debt crisis and, therefore, should be swifter and ultimately more pronounced.Don't Count Your Chickens before they HatchIf there's only one sentence you take away from this article, let it be this: Things change fast. If you wish, you may add a second: Bear markets work much faster than bull markets.Momentum is a strong force. Upside momentum breeds optimism which eventually culminates at optimistic extremes. A few days before the April decline, the ETF Profit Strategy Newsletter noted that the: 'message conveyed by the composite bullishness is unmistakably bearish.'A more recent example of bear market forces taking hold can be found in the municipal bond market. For over two years, muni bonds have been quenching the thirst of yield hungry investors.On July 8, the ETF Profit Strategy Newsletter observed: 'Predicting the location of the next credit crisis isn't easy by virtue of the fact that there are so many darn cracks everywhere. Nevertheless, the $2.8 trillion municipal bond market looks especially ripe for disaster.'On August 26 - the very day muni bonds and 30-year Treasury Bonds (NYSEArca: TLT - News) peaked - the ETF Profit Strategy Newsletter followed up the initial red flag with this word of advice: 'Our technical analysis along with fundamentals suggest that T-Bonds are getting ready to roll over. A look at the overall picture suggests that this is more than just a minor correction. The rally in municipal, corporate and high yield bonds is showing signs of weakness too. Investors should start exiting from those markets.'The chart of the iShares S&P National Muni Bond ETF (NYSEArca: MUB - News) below shows that MUB lost nearly two years worth of gains within a matter of weeks.Don't Discount the Ripple EffectThus far, the major indexes a la Dow Jones (DJI: ^DJI), S&P (SNP: ^GSPC) and Nasdaq (Nasdaq: ^IXIC) have largely resisted that drag. But a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.At its most recent earnings disappointment, Cisco CEO Chambers disclosed that weak sales to the government and state sector contributed to weak earnings. The government sector accounts for 13% of spending on goods and services.It's probably just a matter of time until this weakness affects the tech (NYSEArca: XLK - News), and by extension the consumer discretionary (NYSEArca: XLY - News) sectors; especially since earnings for 2011 are expected to clock in at an all-time high (no, that's not a typo, check Standard and Poor's earnings estimates).For right now, the straws (fundamental problems) are piling up on the camel's back (stock market), until the last straw breaks his back. My personal guess is that the insanity will go on a bit longer, but as we've seen in 2000, 2007, 2010 and the above MUB chart, the power of the last straw can bring the camel to its knees in a hurry.Unlike Wall Street and the financial media, the ETF Profit Strategy Newsletter doesn't simply ignore red flags, but tries to identify Trojan-Horse-like asset classes before they enter and destroy your portfolio. Semi-weekly updates continually monitor major asset classes and provide invaluable support and resistance levels.