Fed Easing Alone Can't Fix What Ails Economy: El-Erian

The Federal Reserve's easing programs are only one part of a three-pronged approach needed to rebuild the economy, Pimco's Mohamed El-Erian told CNBC.

mohamed el-erian
mohamed el-erian

While the central bank's move to buy $600 billion in Treasurys helps in terms of monetary policy, more needs to be done on the fiscal and policy sides, said the co-CEO of the world's biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co.

Investors priced in the Treasury-buying program, often referred to as quantitative easing, or QE, but "took it too far" and the market has since pulled back.

"In terms of the economic impact, the question is, is it enough?" El-Erian said. "The Fed is very active, but nobody else is on the policy side so we're not seeing enough to promote growth, to create jobs, and we're not seeing that balance between short-term fiscal stimulus and medium-term financial discipline."

The other prongs of the approach are making sure policies promote growth, and the government protecting "the most vulnerable segments of the population during this major realignment."

"Right now we only have actions that speak to one," he said.

Stocks jumped as much as 17 percent after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled in late summer that the central bank was likely to restart its easing program.

That trend reversed itself in the past two weeks as criticism intensified and investors began wrestling with a new set of worries, particularly European debt problems and scattered domestic worries.

El-Erian said concerns about Ireland's debthave been addressed temporarily through liquidity measures, but the long-term problems with solvency remain to be solved, much the same as what happened when Greece first sparked sovereign debt concerns in April.

Investors in euro-zone debt are likely to have to take a haircut—or a principal loss—on their bonds, he said.

"If it doesn't address solvency issues we're going to simply be kicking the can down the road, and in a few months we're going to be talking about it again," El-Erian said. "When people lend to these countries they lend at spreads. Spreads reflect risk, If you get it wrong, that's the consequences of you being in that activity."