You heard it first in the blogopshere. From the New York Times:
The Federal Reserve’s experimental effort to spur a recovery by purchasing vast quantities of federal debt has pumped up the stock market, reduced the cost of American exports and allowed companies to borrow money at lower interest rates.
But most Americans are not feeling the difference, in part because those benefits have been surprisingly small. The latest estimates from economists, in fact, suggest that the pace of recovery from the global financial crisis has flagged since November, when the Fed started buying $600 billion in Treasury securities to push private dollars into investments that create jobs….
A study published in February found that interest rates decreased, but only for companies with top credit ratings. “Rates that are highly relevant for households and many corporations — mortgage rates and rates on lower-grade corporate bonds — were largely unaffected by the policy,” wrote Arvind Krishnamurthy and Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, both finance professors at Northwestern University.
Another indication of its limited success: Borrowing has not grown significantly, suggesting that corporations — which are sitting on record piles of cash — are not yet seeing opportunities for new investments. Until they do, some economists argue that the Fed is pushing on a string.
“What has it done? It has eased credit conditions, it has pumped up the stock market, it has suppressed the dollar,” said Mickey Levy, Bank of America’s chief economist. “But does the Fed think that buying Treasuries and bloating its balance sheet is really going to create permanent job increases?”
We’ve argued repeatedly, as have others, that well targeted fiscal stimulus and more private sector debt restructuring were the right medicine. But Obama and his bankster friendly advisors had no stomach for much of either remedy.
For what it’s worth, QE and QE2 have gotten a barrage of criticism. Jim Hamilton looked at the much bigger first round of QE and concluded that it lowered long bond yield by only 17 basis points. Paul Volcker thought making a fuss over the program was silly, since the Fed used to buy bonds as a matter of course. And as Marshall Auerback has pointed out, the idea of a fixed dollar amount of purchases was bizarre. There was no way of knowing what if anything it would accomplish. It would have made more sense for the central bank to set a rate target (say for whatever longer-dated maturity it chose to target) and buy whatever it took to keep that level.
You could argue that the big impact of the QEs was psychological, that it was tangible proof that the Bernanke put was the Greenspan put on steroids. And you have thegeneral concern, that the more the Fed meddles in rates, the more it creates economic distortions, which are very likely to be speculation rather than real economy investment.