The Federal Reserve released the minutes from its most recent Open Market Committee meeting today. Bottom line: There will be no additional round of "quantitative easing," or QE3. This means the Fed won't print more money to buy bonds and drive down long-term interest rates.
At the Huffington Post, Mark Gongloff had the best take:
This affront to humanity sent the stock market tumbling immediately, making it seem almost as if the market's rally to multi-year highs had less to do with actual economic growth than with an addiction to Fed stimulus.
At the worst moment for the market this afternoon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down about 130 points, or about one percent, while the S&P 500 stock index was also down about one percent. Both markets were on track for one of their worst days of the year.
Gold, silver and platinum, which have thrived under a free and easy Fed, fell even harder. Gold at last check was down nearly 2 percent to $1650.40 an ounce.
U.S. Treasury bonds fell, too, as the Fed's minutes disappointed market hopes that Bernanke & Co. would soon launch another program to print money and buy bonds. The 10-year Treasury note recently yielded 2.25 percent, which is still ridiculously low, thanks in part to the Fed still keeping its promise to hold short-term interest rates near zero until sometime around the Second Coming.
Gongloff didn't specify the Second Coming of what, or whom. Alan Greenspan?
In fact, even at that 2.25 yield, which is notably higher than a few months back, when the 10-year was yielding less than 2 percent, comes out as negative when you consider than inflation is running around 2-3 percent, above the Fed's stated 2-percent target. Historically, inflation runs over 3 percent, so you can see how compelling the "flight to safety" factor in bond buying really is these days.
The Fed might still do QE3. It would be an obvious option if the recovery grinds to a halt and growth for 2012 comes in significantly lower than 3 percent, thereby pushing unemployment back up. But for the moment, the recovery looks to be on track, although that track is slow. So the Fed is acting as expected.