Forecast of Monetary Base to 2015 Based on Today’s Fed Action

Pretty much as expected, the Fed announced that it will be conducting outright QE at the pace of $40B per month without any clear end date.  Based on this pace of purchases, below is a forecast of what the monetary base could look like out to 2015 assuming that the Fed prints at today’s pace for as long as it intends to keep rates exceptionally low.

If this pace were maintained until then, the monetary base would increase by about 5x between 2008-2016, which would be a CAGR of 22%.  The current pace of $40B per month represents an annualized growth of about 18% from current levels.  Given gold and oil’s correlation with the growth of the monetary base, $2700 gold and $170 brent crude prices might not be out of the question if the Fed maintains QE for that long.

Correlation of Rates and S&P 500

Operation twist has had the opposite effect on rates that outright QE has had, but equities have rallied during twist just like they did during QE1/2.  This has lead to a divergence between equities and interest rates over the past year.  Previously equities and rates had been relatively correlated: when equities moved higher so did interest rates.  Recently though, the daily correlation has broken down and over the past year has actually turned slightly negative.

Rates S&P 1 year correlation

Monetary Base Grew Last Week

One indicator that we pay close attention to is the monetary base, the sum of currency and reserve balances at the Fed.  Over the last two weeks the base has grown by $43B, about 1.5%.  The base is important to us because of the relationship that it has had with commodity prices over the last several years.  If the relationship holds, it might suggest that commodity prices like oil and gold will trend sideways rather than down.

As far as Fed Balance sheet trends go, it’s also worth noting that reserve balances continue to fall.  The “reserve balances” line is a perennially misunderstood line-item, which is often used as evidence that excess liquidity is just being stored at the Fed rather than entering the economy.  In actually the high level of excess reserves is just a symptom of QE because in the aggregate all of the reserves in the system must return to the Fed even if different banks hold them.  At any rate, these reserves are now starting to be converted more rapidly into hard currency, which should render the argument over excess reserves moot.

Fed Liabilities Portion of Balance Sheet: