Fed Move Ends the Short Era of Global Quantitative Tightening
The Federal Reserve’s decision to stop shrinking its balance sheet from Thursday means the era of quantitative tightening by major central banks is over less than a year after it started.
Net bond purchases by the Fed, European Central Bank and Bank of Japan are now turning positive, according to an analysis of their balance sheets by Bloomberg Economics. That’s just ten months since stockpiles of bonds and other assets began contracting after a decade of stimulus.
Quantitative Easing Forever?
The reversal highlights how fast central banks have been forced to again embrace lower interest rates and swollen balance sheets as the world economy slows amid the U.S.-China trade war. Investors and economists may question how effective quantitative easing will be given its failure to ignite powerful recoveries from the last recession.
“For rate cuts, the first cut is the deepest,” said Tom Orlik, chief economist at Bloomberg Economics. “For quantitative easing, the biggest bang comes from the first buck. The swing back to net asset purchases by major central banks is a pivotal moment. The second time around, though, quantitative easing will struggle to gain the same traction as it did the first.”
The Fed’s decision ends a process that very modestly tightens monetary policy and was previously scheduled to come to a close at the end of September.
That may be pleasing news for Wall Street and the White House. Many traders blamed the Fed-led withdrawal of stimulus for a sell-off in stocks near the end of 2018. President Donald Trump also attacked the Fed, tweeting recently that it “must stop with the crazy quantitative tightening.”
The European Central Bank stopped its bond-buying program at the end of last year, but is now indicating it may resume purchasing assets as soon as September, with Bloomberg Economics among those expecting it to do so. The Bank of Japan has continued to boost its balance sheet.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.