No surprises here: Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve announced plans this afternoon to purchase another $600 billion of Treasuries, resuscitating a "quantitative easing" (QE) program that had expired in April.
This was 100% expected. And so much ink has been spilled regarding this plan that I won't waste your time repeating what's already been said ad nauseum.
Instead, here's an interesting question to ask: Did expectations of today's Fed annoucement fuel the past two months' market rally? Conventional wisdom says yes. The blog Pragmatic Capitalist thinks otherwise:
It's become popular to cite the recent market rally, dollar decline and commodity rally as evidence that QE works. Of course, most of these investors forget that this rally did not start with QE (in fact, the market fell in August in the face of QE rumors). This rally started with the August ISM Manufacturing report that came in well above expectations. The market sentiment at the time was very depressed, deflationary and generally expecting a double dip. But better than expected economic data and strong earnings have largely alleviated these fears (in fact, they have been flipped entirely as investors are very bullish and believe inflation is right around the corner).
The Fed's trigger-happy fingers surely had some impact on stocks, but I can't help thinking it's been token at best. A major concern over QE is that it'll increase the monetary base without expanding bank credit -- your classic pushing-on-a-string analogy. Indeed, most non-conspiracy theorists believe that another round of QE will increase inflation and GDP growth by negligible amounts over the coming year. Hardly anything to get giddy about.
Earnings, meanwhile, are blowing the doors off the market. Companies such as Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) , Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) , and Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) are pulling in strong results based on stronger-than-expected global growth. Even recession-vulnerable stocks like Ford (NYSE: F ) and Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS ) are doing far better than expected.
And this isn't just a story about growth from abroad. The domestic economy isn't doing nearly as poorly as some pretend. Measures of consumer demand and manufacturing are far stronger than most assumed two months ago, when the words double dip were everywhere.
Can't a rally be based on better-than-expected news, not just a manipulating Fed? You tell me in the comment section below.