While economists and traders chase their tales trying to guess whether or when the Federal Reserve will initiate a third round of quantitative easing, it may have already begun!
In a classic exchange that took place between CNBC's Larry Kudlow and legendary investor Jim Rogers recently, you'll find these gentlemen agreeing with each other that the Federal Reserve is probably already active in the Treasury market in ways that are not publicly disclosed.
In other words, Ben Bernanke's Fed may be adding a secret shout to its Operation Twist to get more rock and roll out of its collective efforts to keep Treasury yields artificially low. Rogers does not mince words, asserting that Bernanke is "lying about it." Have a quick look at this 3-minute clip, and then let's discuss it:
The real gem comes in about halfway through the clip:
Rogers: Larry, if things continue to get bad, they're going to print more money. That's all Bernanke knows to do. He's going to print more money, and you'd better own real assets at a time like that.
Kudlow: I actually think the [European Central Bank] and the Fed is going to print more money. We're going to have massive quantitative easing to get out of this crisis, Jimmy. If that is the case, and both the ECB and the Fed go into QE mode, what's your favorite investment?
Rogers: Well, agricultural commodities is where I would be. I've told you this before. But Larry, they're already in QE; at least the Fed is. When Bernanke said in early August, "We're going to keep interest rates low" ... Larry, the only way you do that is you go into the market and you force them down. He's already in the market. He's lying about it. If you get out the M2 numbers, Larry, from the first week of August, you'll see they jumped up as soon as he said that and they've stayed higher, going higher. He's in the market. They're lying to us again, Larry. C'mon, you're a Princeton graduate; you should know how they do it.
Kudlow: "I do. I do. [laughing] And I basically agree with you, Jimmy Rogers. I'm sorry, I'm flat out of time, but I basically agree."
What do you think?
So Kudlow "basically" agrees with Rogers that the Federal Reserve is engaged in surreptitious action in the Treasuries market. That certainly places a fresh spin upon efforts to improve the transparency and public accountability of this famously opaque institution. But what do you think?
If you trust that Bernanke's Fed wouldn't dream of engaging in any sort of undisclosed market activity, then the capital markets must appear to trade freely in accordance with underlying fundamentals. I envy the sense of well-being that must accompany such a view. I would encourage you, however, to take a close look at the gold market for corroborating signs of surreptitious market intervention.
If, on the other hand, you agree with Kudlow and Rogers that quantitative easing has been under way since early August, and that both Europe's ECB and the Fed are likely to follow up with announcements of further easing as Europe's crisis unfolds, then Rogers' admonition to make room in one's portfolio for exposure to hard assets makes a whole heap of sense.
While Rogers has repeatedly recommended direct exposure to agricultural commodities over these past several years -- not to mention gold and silver -- many retail investors are not engaged directly with futures markets. If, like me, you prefer to make do with the opportunities available within the equity markets, there's another means of investing in commodities the Jim Rogers way.
The Market Vectors RVE Hard Assets Producers ETF (NYSE: HAP ) tracks a benchmark index that Rogers participated in constructing (the index carries his name) and features heavy weightings in energy and basic materials that could help to shield investors from the ravages of currency debasement that result from quantitative easing. The ETF offers an attractive mix of major oil producers ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) paired with popular agriculture-related plays featuring PotashCorp (NYSE: POT ) and Deere (NYSE: DE ) . Further down the list of holdings, Fools will find multiple metal miners, most notably BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP ) and gold giant Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) .
Certainly, how people seek to adapt their investment portfolios to prepare for the likelihood of a Greek sovereign default or a worsening of the overall European debt crisis will vary according to their outlook toward likely monetary responses from the Fed and the ECB. So let's discover where the consensus of this community stands on the issue. Do you think the Fed is already in the bond market? Will we see more quantitative easing from the Fed and ECB? Let us know in the comments box below.