The big jobs number came out Friday and what the Federal Reserve will do depends on these numbers turn out. However, there is a near universal consensus in the media as to what a "good number" is, and it has been a bit disturbing to me.
First, I want to give you a short background. The Fed launched quantitative easing (QE) during the height of the financial crisis as a measure to help boost a very weak economy. QE consists of the Fed buying treasuries from banks and printing money. The goal is to get banks to lend, prevent deflation, lower treasury yields and force investors into riskier assets, such as real estate. What was an emergency measure in 2008 has now become the norm in 2013.
However, now the economy seems to be getting stronger the Fed has hinted at ending QE. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a speech panicking markets because they thought QE would end and bond rates would go up (and stocks would possibly go down). The Fed has tried to reassure investors and now it seems the end of QE is dependent on economic numbers and, in particular, employment.
This has led to a trend of the financial media by and large hoping for a "good number." But what is a good number? Many pundits say good job growth leads to investor confidence, but not too good as that means the Fed will end QE. Most people have failed to realize how perverse this is for two reasons.
Number one, the above logic just shows how addicted the market has become to the Fed's QE measures. A few years ago, many worried about the Fed "running out of bullets." QE was an emergency measure which has lasted for years. Additionally, the program has become the norm, as the Bank of England and Japan adopted similar strategies.
However, there is a more human element here. The job situation in America is really bad. Most people do not step back to think for a second that they are hoping the economy does not improve quicker. Anyone with a consensus and who is an American patriot would realize after thinking about this for a second that they should hope the economy is as strong as possible.
Although I was not in this camp, some hoped the economy would slow so that President Obama would not win a second election. The rationale was that we would get a better president who would dramatically improve the economy, making up for any slow growth. However, that was not the case. Obama is not running for re-election so there is no reason anyone should hope there are fewer jobs available.
I hope everyone who reads this will realize a "good number" will be the highest one possible even if it does mean that the Fed ends QE sooner.
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