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Retired chief investment officer and former NYSE firm partner with 50 plus years experience in field as analyst / economist, portfolio manager / trader, and CIO who has superb track record with multi $billion equities and fixed income portfolios. Advanced degrees, CFA. Having done much professional writing as a young guy, I now have a cryptic style. 40 years down on and around The Street confirms: CAVEAT EMPTOR IN SPADES !!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Fed's Exit Strategy

Today, chairman Bernanke presented to the House a plan of phased

withdrawal of the extraordinary monetary stimulus from the

financial system. I have linked to it here. It is an important

document and has the merit of being easy to follow. I discuss some

of my impressions below.

The plan is to end all stimulus programs by the end of Q1 '10. The

focus then will be on managing down the $1.1 tril. of excess reserves

as the economy continues to recover. The control levers for the

plan are term deposits offered to banks which "lock up" reserves,

the rates paid on reserves and on the deposits and a return to

normal discount window function. The Fed will also use "reverse"

repurchase agreements to drain reserves as needed to keep the

management of the special CDs to banks in trim. At the same

time, the Fed will conduct normal open market operations in

the overnight market. So, you will have to watch Fed Funds rate,

the rate paid on reserves, the term and rate structure of the CDs

and the discount rate as well as the repo operations.

It would be wise for the Fed to put this approach into practice

before the banks begin to lend more aggressively, although it is

not necessary. As short term credit demand expands, the Fed

plans to drain excess reserves permanently in an orderly

manner underneath the structure it has in place to manage the

reserves. I am guessing the Fed will ultimately drain about

$900 bil. of excess reserves, and allow the remaining $200 bil.

to flow into permamnent reserves as private sector credit demand

expands. Timing is uncertain.

Should banks exit the CDs at a rate faster than the Fed plans, it

will have the reverse repo facility at hand to counter the move.

The Fed will expand the dealer network it uses to engage in the

repo program and It appears confident it can generate large

enough volumes to do the job.

So, we are in for a period when there are more important moving

parts in the conduct of monetary policy, and my concern will be

how well the Fed balances the need to keep the system liquid

against eventual constrictions on credit. It is all well and good

to fight inflation, but not at the expense of too heavy a drain on

simple monetary liquidity. We've seen enough of that.

The operatiion of the plan will be reported on a timely basis and

will be sufficiently transparent to allow interested parties to see

just how the Fed is proceeding. Much of the dumb stuff published

about the alleged consequences of the Fed's actions for inflation

etc. can be safely ignored in place of observing what the Fed is

actually doing.

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