Cruising on QE2, Twisting Again, and Designing Even More Preemptively

  • David E. Lindsey
Part of the Palgrave Studies in American Economic History book series


Having been reappointed by President Obama, and confirmed by the Senate on a 70–30 vote, Ben Bernanke began his second term as chairman in early February 2010. Heavy purchases of securities under QE1 ended as scheduled in March. But the economy turned more sluggish as it entered the second half of the year. The FOMC decided on August 10 to maintain the overall size of its assets by reinvesting the proceeds of maturing holdings of housing-related securities in long-term Treasuries. And later that month at the Jackson Hole Symposium, the chairman signaled that another round of large-scale asset purchases could well be forthcoming:

A first option for providing additional monetary accommodation, if necessary, is to expand the Federal Reserve’s holdings of longer-term securities. As I noted earlier, the evidence suggests that the Fed’s earlier program of purchases was effective in bringing down term premiums and lowering the costs of borrowing in a number of private credit markets. I regard the program (which was significantly expanded in March 2009) as having made an important contribution to the economic stabilization and recovery that began in the spring of 2009 …

I believe that additional purchases of longer-term securities, should the FOMC choose to undertake them, would be effective in further easing financial conditions. However, the expected benefits of additional stimulus from further expanding the Fed’s balance sheet would have to be weighed against potential risks and costs. One risk of further balance sheet expansion arises from the fact that, lacking much experience with this option, we do not have very precise knowledge of the quantitative effect of changes in our holdings on financial conditions. In particular, the impact of securities purchases may depend to some extent on the state of financial markets and the economy; for example, such purchases seem likely to have their largest effects during periods of economic and financial stress, when markets are less liquid and term premiums are unusually high. The possibility that securities purchases would be most effective at times when they are most needed can be viewed as a positive feature of this tool. However, uncertainty about the quantitative effect of securities purchases increases the difficulty of calibrating and communicating policy responses.1


Interest Rate Monetary Policy Central Bank Fund Rate Federal Fund Rate 
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© David E. Lindsey 2016

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