Will the stock market collapse when QE is withdrawn?
By Colin Twiggs
November 12th, 2014 2:00 p.m. ET (6:00 a:m AEDT)
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Will withdrawal of Quantitative Easing cause a stock market collapse?
This chart in Westpac's Northern Exposure chart summary implies that US stocks rely on Fed balance sheet expansion (QE) for support.
The curve shows an almost perfect fit. There are just two things wrong with it. First, the scales on the left and right sides of the chart are not proportionate: the scale on the left compares a 9 times increase to a 3 times increase on the right. Second, while the Fed has expanded its balance sheet to more than $4 Trillion, a large percentage of that money has washed straight back to the Fed — deposited by banks as excess reserves.
The impact on the working monetary base (monetary base adjusted for excess reserves) is far smaller: a rise of 66% (or $544 billion) over the past 7 years.
A chart since 1985 shows nominal GDP (GDP before adjustment for inflation) normally expanded between 5% and 7.5% a year outside of recessions. But NGDP has not recovered above 5% after 2008. This may be partly attributable to lower inflation, but the Fed would clearly want to see NGDP above 5% — roughly 3% real growth and 2% inflation.
We can also see that growth of below 5% in the working monetary base is often precursor to a recession, 1995/1996 being one exception. The second is when the Fed took their foot off the gas pedal too early, after QE1 in 2010, but were able to resume in time to head off a major contraction. They have been far more circumspect the second time and are likely to maintain monetary base growth North of 5%. Too sharp a slow-down would be cause for concern.
When we calculate the ratio of total US stock market capitalisation to the working monetary base [blue line] it is apparent that market response to the increase in monetary base is far more cautious than it was in 1998/1999.
With Forward Price to Earnings Ratios for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq close to their long-term average (Westpac Northern Exposure, Page 118), I consider the likelihood of the QE taper precipitating a major market collapse to be remote.
Our stay-put behavior reflects our view that the stock market serves as a relocation center at which money is moved from the active to the patient.
~ Warren Buffett
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