Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Recognizing who\what Really Controls Interest Rates

Just in case there was any doubt about what really controls interest rates, the past couple of months should dispel any lingering doubts.  The Federal Reserve(The Fed) is without a doubt in full control of interest rates going up or down.

Money Graph
Back in spring, the Fed hinted that it was going to ease up on "Quantitative Easing" or QE3.  Quantitative easing, for those who don't know, is the Fed trying to flood the market with dollars by buying stocks and bonds(*True Story)  They call it Quantitative Easing to make themselves sound smarter than you(*Not a true story).

So guess what happened?  Interest rates have been steadily rising this summer.  Despite that, many people mistakenly believe that interest rates are determined by a "Free Market" or by "bond vigilantes".  The only time "the market" really gets involved is when they start trying to guess at what the Fed is going to do.  That was demonstrated last Wednesday.  The Fed said nothing, the market reacted as if that meant interest rates were going to go up.

The policy implications for this are immense.  I won't get into all of them on this little post.  But let's just start at the bottom.  The Fed sets interest rates.  That is a fact, one that cannot be denied.  Whether or not that is desirable is a different argument.  But, right now, the only thing standing between a 0% interest rate, or a 40% interest rate is a whole bunch of wealthy, well-connected bankers.

No amount of budget deficits or surpluses can change that fact.  Granted, the bankers may make their decisions based on federal budgets or the health of the economy.  But the decision is still in the hands of a small number of people, not "the market".
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