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QE3 subsidizes Wall Street and housing, but not the rest of America

September 18, 2012

The Federal Reserve announcement of an another round of quantitative easing is being met with cheers along Wall Street. Analysts also predict a boost to mortgage financing. But outside of that, QE3 will do little to help the average American.

"The Fed's bond-buying programs and commitment to low interest rates hasn't proven effective at generating the type of growth that can bring down unemployment, but it certainly has fueled a turnaround in the housing market," wrote James Frischling, president and co-founder of NewOak Capital. "Expect this next round of bond-buying to do more of the same."

Frischling suggests the Fed desires a strong housing market to stimulate the U.S. economy in a way that gets the jobless back to work. The idea is that if the Fed directly stimulates housing, it may indirectly put a dent in unemployment by boosting the construction and home maintenance industries.

After all, homeownership is now cheaper than renting in the nation's largest housing markets, and Frischling expects "lower rates will offset the increasing guaranty costs of the GSEs" while stimulating homebuyer demand.

"Mortgage applications have been fairly lackluster, but expect that to change," he added in a NewOak Capital market report. "There will also be a spike in refinancing as a result of the lower rates which will translate into more money in the pockets of consumers."

But Christopher Whalen with Tangent Capital Partners said the Fed is simply fighting deflation and frets over the idea that "the Fed's leaders continue to pretend that driving down yields in the RMBS markets will have any impact on the housing sector or the economy."

"The two thirds of the mortgage market that cannot refinance their homes will be unaffected by QE3," he wrote this week. "In fact, the latest Fed purchases are a gift to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the too-big-to-fail banks and the hedge fund community. A fund on the floor of our offices in New York actually started dancing around like little children shouting 'QE3' after the Bernanke press conference."

Whatever the outcome of QE3, there may be one missing component to the Fed's analysis. Whalen subtly points to it in his own estimation of what is wrong — wages and actual hiring. "Instead of looking for ways to stoke consumer demand by restoring income and consumer demand, the Fed is simply feeding subsidies to Wall Street.  Since the Fed does not think that savers like grandparents and corporations spend money, the error is magnified several orders of magnitude," Whalen wrote.

Ron D'Vari, CEO of NewOak Capital also added that "the Great U.S. Recession officially ended over three years ago, yet housing and employment are still in the troubled zone, pointing to very powerful unresolved underlying economic issues," D'Vari wrote. "Now the key question is if this time housing will pull the economy up — or will the slowing economy overpower it?"

kpanchuk@housingwire.com

 

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