Why Tuesday's Surprise Rate Cut Won't Cut It

Includes: DIA, IEF, SHV, SHY, SPY
by: Babak

You’d have a headache too if you had his job.

We’ll never know how the market would have traded without the Fed rate cut but I have a feeling it didn’t make much of a difference.

I’ve been telling the Fed to cut rates since last summer so if you’re one of my 4 long-term readers, this is not new to you.

The Fed is continuing to chase the bond market in a cat and mouse game. Only problem is that the Bernanke Fed has been unwilling to do what is really necessary to bring the discount rate to alignment with the bond market.

It is the Fed that actually mimics the interest rate as set through the bond market (not the other way around). Tuesday’s 'surprise' 75 point basis cut may seem huge by historical standards but if you compare it to the short term T-Bill rates, you’ll see that much more is needed.

Greenspan had a much better track record in keeping the Fed discount rate as close as possible to that set in the bond market. See how close the black Fed rate hugs the blue short term bond market rate?

Since Bernanke replaced Greenspan in February 2006, we’ve seen a significant decoupling between the two. From early 2007 till now, the short term bond market has been consistently and significantly below the Fed rate.

This has exacerbated the liquidity crisis and it will continue to do so the longer it lasts.

The “risk free” three month Treasury Bill rate closed at 2.35% yesterday. That’s 115 basis points below the brand spanking new discount rate of 3.5%.

All the Fed has done is cut the gap between the short term T-bill from 139 basis points (Friday) to 115 basis points (Tuesday).

Can you imagine what the market would do if Bernanke & Co. came out with a cut that size?