The great Bernanke QE2 debate continues to heat up. In the run-up to the G-20 meetings, China, Russia, Germany, and others are all coming out against the Federal Reserve’s quantitative-easing agenda. They don’t want hot-money excess dollars to flow into their higher-yielding currencies.
The assault against Bernanke’s easy money has reached such a fever pitch that President Obama felt it necessary to defend the $600 billion in new-money printing in a news conference in India.
Meanwhile, World Bank president Robert Zoellick has actually called for putting gold
back into global money, in order to use it as an international reference point to measure market expectations over inflation or deflation. The former Treasury and State Department official wants a successor to Bretton Woods. To my way of thinking, Zoellick is dead-on right.
And then there’s Kevin Warsh’s opus op-ed in Monday’s Wall Street Journal. I have written about Warsh in the past, and his sound-thinking views. Taking a bit of a shot at Bernanke’s QE2, the Fed board member basically says: Look, you want better growth, reform the tax code and stop regulating. “The Federal Reserve is not a repair shop for broken fiscal, trade, or regulatory policies,” he writes.
But in the key part of his op-ed, Warsh calls for a strictly limited QE2, not an open-ended commitment. He describes it as “necessarily limited, circumscribed, and subject to regular review.” And he goes on to say that if the dollar decline and run-up of commodity prices continues, these inflation signals should stop QE2, regardless of the unemployment rate.
It’s noteworthy that both Zoellick and Warsh are using gold, commodities, and the dollar as alarm signals — market-based alarm signals — that would warn the Fed if it’s too loose.
Since Bernanke first hinted at quantitative easing in late August, commodity indexes have jumped nearly 20 percent, gold has hit a new record high over $1,400 an ounce, and the dollar has fallen nearly 10 percent against the euro. And riding the crest of easy-money expectations, stocks have increased just less than 20 percent. But is it real? Is it sustainable?