Waiting for taper start? You may have missed it

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
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Investors avidly awaiting signs that the Federal Reserve is ready to reduce its monthly stimulus may find that the news already has passed them by

Tapering, as the market calls it, easily has been the market's main concern, and in fact only worry other than sustaining the modest growth in both earnings and gross domestic product.

That worry began in May of this year when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke first raised the prospect during a congressional hearing, and speculation over when it may start has been a major market-mover throughout.

The Fed has been creating $85 billion a month that it uses to buy Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities, expanding its balance sheet to just shy of $4 trillion, in what is known as quantitative easing, or QE. It also has kept its target funds rate near zero since the financial crisis hit in 2008.

There's reason to believe, though, that the reduction in the pace of monthly bond purchases—and that's all it will be, a reduction, not a cessation—already has been mostly priced into market action and may not have such a monumental impact as is feared.

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