We have written about quantitative easing (QE) many times over the years, yet there remains more to be said: the great QE experiment is not yet over. Given the result of the EU referendum, speculation is rife as to whether the Bank of England will embark on another round of QE to stimulate the UK economy; arguably making this a good time to debate the efficacy of such strategies.
It’s safe to say that the most surprising aspect of QE has been the lack of inflation, but central banks which have undertaken – or are still undertaking – QE claim that it has worked by preventing deflation through portfolio rebalancing. The shift in funds into riskier assets has led to higher stock markets. My take on this? Central banks are over exaggerating their claims at best, or grabbing at straws at worst.
Let’s take the US model experience as an example. I agree that the Fed’s balance sheet and S&P 500 index have been positively correlated since 2009, but I would argue that the relationship is casual, not causal. The Fed announced its QE programme only after US stock markets had collapsed to cheap levels, and stopped it only once those markets had recovered. As such, the Fed seemed to use the S&P index as a temperature gauge for the economy (“the share price of the country” as it were), rather than the index appreciation being the direct result of the QE activity undertaken. QE started when stocks were cheap, and finished when they became fair value.
Not yet convinced? The above chart demonstrates a coincidental relationship, but what about other economies? The QE experiment in Europe was initiated in March 2015, a time when the Stoxx 600 equity market was much more buoyant, and not trading at distressed valuation levels. It seems ludicrous to argue that a causal link has been in play in Europe....MOREHT: FT Alphaville's Markets Live