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Coordinated Central Bank Inaction

Aug 02, 2012
DARYL MONTGOMERY

The Fed, ECB and Bank of England all met in the last two days and none of them took any steps at easing monetary policy. Media reports have been promising this since June. Traders have been bidding up the market on what has proved to be nothing but empty talk.

Three major central banks met on August 1st and 2nd and none of them took any decisive action. Markets in the U.S. and Europe have been rallying since late June on expected policy easing they've been promised by reports in the mainstream media. So far, empty talk is all the central banks have delivered.

Traders had high expectations for the Fed's monthly meeting on July 31st and August 1st. A week previously, news hit the wires (only a few moments before Apple's disastrous earnings were announced) that the Fed was definitely going to do some easing at this weeks meeting. The source was the Wall Street Journal and they followed up with a front page article the next day. And what did the Fed do? Nothing, zilch, nada. So much for the Wall Street Journal being a reliable source of investing information.

For the previous meeting in June, Goldman Sachs claimed the Fed was going to be doing quantitative easing (or maybe some other form of easing, but you would have to have read the entire coverage to find that out). What happened when QE wasn't forthcoming? The market hypsters came out of the woodwork with assurances that QE3 would be announced at the July/August meeting. Now that that hasn't happened either, we are hearing "just wait until September". You might as well wait for Godot. The only way the Fed will be doing QE before the election is if the financial crisis in the Europe gets out of hand. This will not stimulate the economy, but prevent a total collapse of the stock market (not a drop, but a total collapse).

The Bank of England and the ECB also met today. No rate changes from either of them (unlike the U.S. and Japan both have rates slightly above zero and they could lower them). The Bank of England is already doing QE2 and has been doing so since the fall of 2011. The UK is in a recession and QE has not stopped its economic decline.

Mario Draghi, the ECB chair and one of the biggest windbags to ever run a central bank, held a press conference after his meeting. He said that the ECB must undertake "outright" open market operations and would be using non-standard policy measures. Bonds rallied on the news. Unfortunately, only minutes later, Draghi was forced to backtrack on his boisterous pronouncements. He admitted that he was only providing "guidance" of what was going to take place in the future and details wouldn't be available for weeks. Draghi continued that even if the ECB was ready to act now, it would not have the grounds to do so. Someone should give that man a bagpipe.

How long the markets will continue to fall for promises of stimulus that never comes remains to be seen. Whatever happens, there is no reason be confident that things will be getting better. If the Fed could fix the U.S. economy, it would already have done so. If the ECB could solve Europe's debt crisis, it also would have already done so. Doing more of the same is not going to work, so its not worth waiting for central bank action as is. Eventually, the markets will figure this out.

Disclosure: None

Daryl Montgomery
Author: "Inflation Investing - A Guide for the 2010s"
Organizer, New York Investing meetup
http://investing.meetup.com/21

This posting is editorial opinion. There is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

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