Sunday, November 14, 2010

QE2 backlash overseas and at home

Things I thought I would never see: Brazil lecturing the US for printing too much money.  At last week's G-20 summit, President Obama received a considerable amount of criticism from his colleagues around the globe for the Fed's recent actions.  WSJ summarizes the concerns succinctly:
Printing more dollars, or cutting U.S. interest rates, tends to weaken the dollar and makes U.S. exports more attractive. The accompanying rise in the value of other countries' currencies tends to damp their exports and can fuel inflation or asset bubbles, as emerging-market officials note. U.S. officials maintain the Fed's action is about stimulating domestic demand, and that a weaker dollar is a consequence, not an objective.
There are two questionable links in this argument: will interest rates fall that much and, even if they do, will the lower rates have a sizable impact on the dollar's value relative to other currencies.  The value of the dollar also depends on the volume of transactions between the US and its trading partners and the relative prices of goods in the US compared to the rest of the world.  If goods in the US are cheaper (more expensive), that increases (decreases) the demand for the dollar and raises its value.  The economics profession has a justifiably humble record in predicting currency movements, so it is far from clear whether the dollar's value will be affected at all by QE2. 

On the home front, well known monetary economist Sarah Palin weighed in with her concerns.  According to the same WSJ piece, she asked Ben Bernanke to "cease and desist" QE2 and channeled her inner Marty Feldstein saying "It's far from certain this will even work." You betcha.

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