The Fed is likely to announce another round of asset purchases due to lackluster jobs growth in August even though parts of the housing economy are starting to look up, Barclays analysts said Friday.
At least that's the viewpoint of Barclays (BCS) economist Dean Maki, who also suggested that, this time, the Fed may lean towards the acquisition of agency mortgage-backed securities rather than the purchase of Treasuries.
Maki also expects Ben Bernanke to extend the Fed's low interest rate policy to create a level of commitment on the Fed's part.
"If the Fed were to launch a program at the upcoming meeting, it may prefer mortgages simply because of ongoing Treasury purchases under Operation Twist," Maki said. "Were the Fed to halt Treasury sales, front-end Treasury yields should be pulled lower, steepening the curve."
The Barclays report highlights weak August job numbers as the final straw that could push the Fed's lever towards more monetary accommodation.
Only 96,000 jobs were created in August, Barclays pointed out. And even though the unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 8.1% last month, this drop has more to do with people leaving the workforce than substantive job growth.
"While initial jobless claims have fallen in the past few months, the lack of follow-through into payroll growth will likely lead the Fed to conclude that the labor market is stuck in neutral," Maki wrote.
But Barclays' prediction that QE3 is right around the corner is only one side of the debate.
Deutsche Bank (DB) economists shared a slightly different view this week. The bank's research team claims housing could definitely reap rewards from additional easing, but feels the Fed is unlikely to announce another round of QE3 in the near future.
If the Fed does launch QE3, it will probably exchange Treasuries for MBS to cut back on mortgage spreads, according to Deutsche.
Deutsche analysts believe there could be a definite benefit from additional asset purchases, but many risks remain, including the effect of having the Fed's buying dominance overshadowing private parties in these markets and effectively drying them out, according to Deutsche.