By Michael Pollaro
QE3 Is Coming to an End
The Federal Reserve’s latest asset purchase program, QE3, is coming to an end. What was once an $85 billion a month program, one in which at its peak had been goosing the financial markets and economy at an annual rate of $1.0 trillion – and over its 27-month life will have pumped $1.7 trillion of money into the economy – is going to zero. Given the outsized impact QE has had on the growth of U.S. money supply and thus the U.S. economy, we say investors take note, especially those furthest out on the risk curve, because what was once your primary tailwind could soon become your greatest headwind.
Recapping the tenets we presented here, here, and here, once an economy is subjected to a bout of monetary inflation, whether that be via direct central bank money creation or via money (and credit) creation by the fractional reserve banking system, an unsustainable, artificial economic boom is born, whereby malinvestments (bubbles if you like) are created that sooner or later must be liquidated. And whether that bust takes the form of a hyperinflationary bust or a deflationary bust, bust we will get.
The form the bust takes will depend on the course of the inflation. If the central bank/banking system pursues an inflationary course, by throwing continual and importantly ever larger doses of money (and credit) into the economy, the bust will take the form of a hyperinflationary bust – a collapse in the value of the currency, and with that, a breakdown of the entire economy. If instead the central bank/banking system ends its money creation activities or even moderates that increase in a material way, the bust will take the form of a deflationary bust – a healthy liquidation of the malinvestments made during the boom, and with that, a commensurate fall in the prices of those same malinvestments.
Austrian Business Cycle Theory (ABCT) in a nutshell.
Thus, when an economy is subjected to a bout of monetary inflation, investors can enhance their performance by correctly positioning their portfolios on the right side of the boom-bust cycle. Though easier said than done, one should buy claims to the malinvestments of the boom; i.e., when the money supply is surging; then sell those same claims after the growth in the money supply peaks and begins to head down. Importantly, the bigger the bout of monetary inflation, the more important it is to be positioned on the correct side of the boom-bust cycle. The reason is simple – lots of monetary inflation means lots of malinvestments in the economy and financial markets. Indeed, correct positioning is even more important on the downside of the boom-bust cycle. You see, booms tend to develop slowly. Busts, complicated by the distortions created during the boom, more often than not do anything but.
Now, as we first presented here and update for you below, we have one heck of a boom-bust cycle in train. Indeed, what we have termed the Bernanke Risk-On Boom–Bust-to-Be is even more grand than the boom-bust cycles that gave us the Tech Boom-Bust and the Housing Boom-Bust turned Credit Bust turned Great Recession. Defined by how we measure inflation cycles – by the year-over-year rate of change in our broad money supply metric TMS2, cycle trough to trough – here is how the Bernanke Risk-On Boom–Bust-to-Be stacks up through September 2014… Chart by Michael Pollaro/Forbes
The remainder of the article can be read at Forbes here.