Quantitative Easing: Entrance and Exit Strategies

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Quantitative Easing: Entrance and Exit Strategies by Alan S. Blinder, Princeton University CEPS Working Paper No. 204 March 2010

Acknowledgements: Paper prepared for the Homer Jones Memorial Lecture at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, April 1, 2010. I am grateful to Gauti Eggertsson, Todd Keister, Jamie McAndrews, Paul Mizen, John Taylor, Alexander Wolman, and Michael Woodford for extremely useful comments on an earlier draft, and to Princeton’s Center for Economic Policy Studies for research support.

Apparently, it can happen here. On December 16, 2008, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), in an effort to fight what was shaping up to be the worst recession since 1937, reduced the federal funds rate to nearly zero. 1 From then on, with all of its conventional ammunition spent, the Federal Reserve was squarely in the brave new world of quantitative easing. Chairman Ben Bernanke tried to call the Fed’s new policies “credit easing,” probably to differentiate them from what the Bank of Japan had done earlier in the decade, but the label did not stick. 2 Roughly speaking, quantitative easing refers to changes in the composition and/or size of the central bank’s balance sheet that are designed to ease liquidity and/or credit conditions. Presumably, reversing these policies constitutes “quantitative tightening,” but nobody seems to use that terminology. The discussion refers instead to the “exit strategy,” indicating that quantitative easing (“QE”) is looked upon as something aberrant. I will adhere to that nomenclature here. This lecture begins by sketching the conceptual basis for QE: why it might be appropriate, and how it is supposed to work. I then turn, first, to the Fed’s entrance strategy—which is presumably in the past, and then to the Fed’s exit strategy—which is still mostly in the future. Both invite some brief comparisons with the Japanese…...

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