Monday, January 20, 2014

Polly Cleveland: What’s Crippling the Recovery–Lack of Investment Demand or Too-Big-to-Lend Banks?

By Polly Cleveland
Under incoming Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, the United States Federal Reserve Bank will begin to “taper” its program of “Quantitative Easing” or “QE”. Under QE, the Fed every month buys billions of U.S. Treasury bonds and other Federal securities from the big banks. QE keeps down longer-term interest rates, which will, it is hoped, encourage investment and stimulate the economy. QE has indeed supplied the biggest banks with cheap money for profitable trading in the international financial markets, enabling them to recover from the 2008 crisis—and continue paying big bonuses. It has in fact kept interest rates near zero for big banks and corporations. By purchasing bonds from the “government-sponsored enterprises”, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which buy high-quality mortgages, QE has kept mortgage rates down and hence values up for prime real estate. That’s nice if you qualify, or if you’re a bank holding real estate collateral. By keeping bond yields very low, QE has also sent investors piling into the stock market looking for better returns, creating a stock market boom—nice if you own or issue stocks. So QE has done quite well for big bank executives and other members of the One Percent.
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