How Federal Reserve Policies Add to Hard Times at the Pump

Thank you, Chairman Jordan and other members of the subcommittee, for the opportunity to discuss monetary policy and the price of oil. I believe that it is an appropriate use of the subcommittee's time to examine that connection. Indeed, both the net rise and the volatility of oil prices over the past nine months are partly a predictable byproduct of the Fed's expansion of its balance sheet in its policy known as quantitative easing (QE). The Fed gambled that the benefits of the stimulus of QE to financial markets would offset the adverse effects of oil price developments. Whether that gamble pays off is yet to be proven.

QE was essentially designed to give a nudge to risk taking. Late last year, Fed officials announced they would purchase $600 billion of risk less Treasury securities over the period from November 2010 to June 2011. The hope was that investors would reinvest the proceeds in riskier assets. The resulting lift to equity prices and decline in corporate rates would, the theory runs, support economic expansion. The nudge to risk taking from QE seemed like mission accomplished for a time. Stock prices moved significantly higher and yield spreads narrowed once QE was seen as inevitable.

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Vince Reinhart is a resident scholar at AEI.

 

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