GO
Loading...

Farrell: Waiting on the Bearded One

The Great Bearded Ben will speak (via a press release) at 2.15pm/et today.

Thank God there is a Burger Heaven right next to the office.

Burger, fries and a coke should keep me awake long enough to last to the proclamation. Years ago it would have been a burger, fries, onion rings and a chocolate shake. But concessions to age have overcome natural wants and desires.

That, and a vastly expanded waistline.

Big moves are not being anticipated today and, truth is, the Fed has no big moves left in its deck of cards. The Benjamin might not say anything. But there are some policy steps that could be taken, even though the benefits are modest.

The Fed could extend the "extended period" for keeping interest rates low. We have all chosen to interpret keeping rates low for "an extended period" to mean for the duration of the next two or three meetings. They could say we'll keep rates low longer than that and maybe even give a specific minimum period.

They could assure us their portfolio will not be sold off, or could go further and say they will extend the average maturity by selling short paper and buying longer dated paper. The portfolio would stay the same size but the move could help anchor longer rates at the current low level. The press has taken to calling this possible extension "operation twist." I have no idea why that name but I suppose why not.

Ben Bernanke press conference following rate decision.
CNBC
Ben Bernanke press conference following rate decision.

Free reserves that banks have can be kept on deposit at the Fed and earn 25 basis points. The Fed could decide to not pay any interest, or a lower rate of interest. That, in hope/theory, would encourage the banks to lend the money. Bernanke has said such a move could negatively impact short term money market liquidity, but I don't understand why.

The Fed could go further and charge to keep money on deposit and really try to force banks to lend, but most everyone thinks such a move is highly unlikely. But on the other side on the ledger, you have to have loan demand and credit standards that people or businesses can qualify under.

Lastly, the Fed could launch a QE3 to push more money into the system. But the Q's haven't done much so far and , while the stock market would like it, its practical effect would be minimal. Some have talked about the "nuclear option", that is, QE3 without limit. No way. the situation would have to be far more dire than now.

Or, I could extend lunch to include a chocolate sundae keeping in mind if you do something today that will embarrass you tomorrow - sleep late tomorrow.

Vincent Farrell, Jr. is chief investment officer at Ticonderoga Securities and a regular contributor to CNBC.