The last time the WSJ’ Jon Hilsenrath was relevant was two weeks ago (in a flashback to those days before QEternity when infinite QE was not assured and Jon’s input was actually relevant), when following an article of his, and due to his “proximity” with the New York Fed, many assumed that the Tapering suggested by Hilsenrath was being telegraphed by Bernanke to the market. Turns out it was nothing but yet another baffle with bullshit headfake by a central planning regime that is now merely engaged in observing market responses to indirect stimuli: if reduce monthly flow by $20 billion then X (-1%); if cut QE off entirely then Y (-50%?), and so on. Moments ago the same Hilsenrath just released another piece, which effectively refuted everything his previous piece suggested, and in fact made his (Read more…) as Fed mouthpiece absolutely irrelevant, courtesy of the following disclosure: “this time, when the Fed shuts off bond buying, it won’t be… predictable.” He goes so far as to say that the term “tapering” is no longer even applicable! Funny that, considering on May 11, none other than Hilsenrath said: “Federal Reserve officials have mapped out a strategy for winding down an unprecedented $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program meant to spur the economy.”
The irony here is that Hilsenrath is correct, but for another far simpler reason: the Fed simply can not shut down bond buying, at least not voluntarily, without crashing bond the stock market, and the perception that the economy is doing well (it isn’t), just because the S&P hits new all time highs day after day.
The Fed will of course “shut down” bond buying when like in the summer of 2008 simple inflation is raging in commodities, and when a bank has to be sacrificed to induce a deflationary vortex. However, for now thanks to the epic planning in keeping the Brent vigilantes largely in check (now that the Bond vigilatnes are long dead), and since the market has a few more thousand points higher to go before everyone has no choice but to acknowledge how ridiculous the asset bubble has become, there is, to paraphrase Tim Geithner, “no risk.”
When the Fed ended a buying program in 2011, it shut it off all at once. When it shut off another bond buying program in 2009 and 2010, it did it in predetermined, predictable and “tapered” steps. When the Fed raised short-term interest rates from 2003 to 2006, it raised them in gradual and very predictable steps.
This time, when the Fed shuts off bond buying, it won’t be abrupt and it won’t be predictable. The term “tapering” — which implies a predictable gradual process — probably doesn’t describe the plan very well any more, and you’re unlikely to hear Fed officials describing it like that. Instead, the Fed will take a step and then see what happens. Officials also want to avoid the market blowup that happened in 1994, when it took one step and the market assumed that meant a succession of additional steps.
“A step to reduce the flow of purchases would not be an automatic, mechanistic process to end the program,” Mr. Bernanke said. In other words, if the Fed takes a step to reduce the program and the economy falters, it could sit still for a while or even dial purchases back up.
The Fed effectively wants the markets to experience the same uncertainty it experiences about policy and the economy when officials walk into a meeting, and it wants to condition the market to avoid jumping to conclusions about what it will do next. As officials keep saying, it will depend on the economy.
Perhaps the biggest insult here to sentient creatures everywhere, is that people have now become merely lab rats in the greatest behavioral conditioning experiment of all time, not only as regards to buying stocks on both bad and good news, or any utterance out of Bernanke’s mouth, but an experiment designed to force everyone to simply stop thinking logically – the logic being that since every central bank is engaged full bore in reflating everything, than the economy left on its own is simply horrendous – and BTFD.