A Federal Reserve program that buys bonds to spur economic growth could begin tapering off soon. The stock markets' reaction shows how important 'quantitative easing' became.
Investors around the world are having trouble digesting the latest message from the Federal Reserve – that an era of extraordinarily easy money may start to wind down as early as this fall.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down about 290 points (nearly 2 percent) in mid-day trading Thursday. Stock prices in Europe and Asia were down even more – about 3 percent in Germany and Hong Kong, for example.
Treasury bond prices fell also, pushing the interest rate on 10-year Treasury notes to 2.4 percent. That’s a big jump since mid-May, when that rate was below 2 percent.
Chalk it all up to “taper talk,” the growing realization in financial markets that the Federal Reserve may soon slow the pace of its bond-buying campaign known as “quantitative easing.” The so-called QE effort, coupled with ultra-low short-term interest rates, are twin Fed policies designed to spur economic recovery since the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.
Together, they have increased the supply of money and credit available to businesses and consumers. The near-zero short-term rates have helped hard-hit banks get back on their feet, while the bond-buying program has put downward pressure on long-term interest rates – including for mortgages.