Expected quantitative easing by Fed may inflict 'major collateral damage'
Absent some last-minute shift, the Federal Open Market Committee is widely expected by economists to announce another round of large-scale Treasury purchases following its two-day meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. The central bank hopes the move boosts the struggling economy by raising asset prices and staving off deflation, while lowering costs of borrowing to spur lending, which in turn helps businesses expand and hire more. A few Fed officials question the tactic, which has become known as quantitative easing, doubting the benefits outweigh the costs. And some analysts concur. "The Fed may not have as much leeway as is commonly assumed to print money without inflicting major collateral damage on the economy," according to TrimTabs. The investment research firm said additional purchases of long-term Treasurys by the Fed will result in a spike in commodity prices, particularly oil prices, and kick start currency wars with other G-20 countries. The FOMC will announce its policy decision Wednesday afternoon. "The Fed’s money printing could eventually hammer the economy with much higher commodity prices or wild currency swings," TrimTabs analysts said. "As we have mentioned many times, there is no easy way out of a debt problem. We think the way out of the world’s current debt problem is not going to be as easy as investors seem to be expecting." Another financial strategist said the weakened U.S. dollar should be the main reason the Fed decides to purchase more Treasurys, as reported by CNBC. The FOMC lowered the benchmark fed funds rate to between 0% and 0.25% in late 2008, and more than a few economists question what policy changes can be made with the rate so low. "We need more private sector investment in the U.S., healthier monetary and fiscal policies, and better capitalized banks so they can lend to growing companies," according to Ron D’Vari, chief executive of NewOak Capital. "The current policies focus too much on creating artificial inflation through devaluation of currency and not enough on real growth through addressing fundamental issues such as the chaotic housing market." As the largest banks in the nation take flak from all sides and the seemingly ever-increasing foreclosure fiasco grows, some Fed members think banks will simply keep the increased credit in reserves. Banks also face higher capital requirements in coming years under the new global banking rules of Basel 3. Not to mention the still unwritten laws that are a part of the sweeping financial reform included in the Dodd-Frank Act. Write to Jason Philyaw.