If you look at the Federal Reserve’s own research on quantitative easing – large scale asset purchases (LSAPs) – nearly every paper emphasizes the “portfolio balance” effect. Put simply, as the Fed removes longer-term Treasury securities from the menu of portfolio choices available to investors, it forces investors to consider alternative securities, raising their prices and lowering their yields – with a particular impact in driving down the risk premiums of risky securities. Indeed, as we’ve noted, QE has generally been effective in helping stocks to recover the peak-to-trough loss that they have suffered in the prior 6-month period (though the most recent LSAPs in the UK and Europe have been failures in that regard).
Still, once risk premiums are already deeply depressed (we estimate the likely 10-year prospective total nominal return for the S&P 500 to be only 4.8% annually), once stocks are trading near their bull market highs, and once Treasury debt already sports the lowest yield in history, should investors really expect much of a portfolio-balance effect from further attempts at QE? Frankly, I doubt it, but in the eventuality of a third round of QE, we’ll focus on our own measures of market action – not on any blind faith in the Fed.
Read the complete commentary