The Federal Reserve has ended a $600 billion bond buyback program designed to ignite faster economic recovery with pretty soggy results at best, experts say.
While some credited the program for steering the country away from a new recession, others point out that it inflicted serious damage to the U.S. — and global — economy by fueling inflation, weakening the dollar and creating very few jobs in the process.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's program, known as quantitative easing, or QE2 in the media since it's the second such program rolled out by the Fed, did pump up the stock market, as it was supposed to do by design.
The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index is up 25 percent since the program was brought up in August of last year, according to The Washington Post.
|Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke
(Getty Images photo)
And yes, it arguably did divert the country from deflation, a vicious cycle of collapsing economic activity.
But the dollar is down 10 percent thanks to the excessive money printing that came with the program, consumer demand — the backbone of the U.S. economy— remains stuck in the doldrums while jobless rates are actually increasing rather than falling as of late.
"If you come at it from the point of view that you think deflation risk was significant last summer and you want to avoid that, QE2 was a success," says Michael Gapen, senior U.S. economist at Barclays Capital, according to the Post.
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"If you look at it from the point of view that you wanted to make the recovery stronger and more durable, you would have a lingering bad taste in your mouth."
Others weren't so diplomatic, pointing out that the program disrupted currency markets worldwide and jacked up food and oil prices, as all that money scurried to asset bubbles overseas instead of into American households as hoped.
"QE2 was a terrible mistake, and I think it has been counterproductive for economic growth," says John Ryding, chief economist of RDQ Economics, according to the AFP newswire.
"It has gotten inflation up, and that has squeezed the people most in need of paying off their debts."
Even U.S. allies dished out some criticism for the program.
"It serves no purpose to go throwing money from a helicopter," Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega has said, the AFP adds.
Former Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has denounced QE2 as "hooliganism."
Others say all that freshly-printed money does no good if it remains stockpiled in corporate cash vaults and not out invested in new job creating projects.
"Monetary policy ... does not have much impact if big U.S. companies are already flush with trillions in cash but don't want to invest and hire," says Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland.
Others were quick to criticize the Fed itself for even concocting such a plan from the onset.
"The damage to the Fed’s reputation as a bastion of financial stability is irreparable," says Lou Crandall of Wrightson ICAP, according to The Wall Street Journal.
QE2 was merely "better than for the Fed to announce 'we are giving up,'" adds Ethan Harris of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Some stopped short of branding QE2 a total disaster, but gave the policy a barley passing grade at best.
"This was like Vick’s Vapor Rub for markets," writes Sean Snaith of the University of Central Florida.
"No cure, but [it]eased symptoms."
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