Make me Emperor for a day, and I would compel the FOMC to outsource interest rate policy to the bond market. Why should we pay 12 experts, most with expensive Ivy League PhD degrees, to do what the bond market can do far more efficiently (and cheaply)?
This week’s chart compares the 2-year T-Note yield to the stated Fed Funds target rate. The FOMC has actually said that the target rate is 1.5% to 1.75%, so I’m splitting the difference by calling it 1.625%. What this chart shows is that first, the two interest rates are very strongly correlated over time, which is as one would expect. But second and more importantly, the 2-year yield knows best what the Fed should do. And the Fed screws up when it does not listen.
If the FOMC would just set the Fed Funds target to within a quarter point of wherever the 2-year T-Note yield is, we would have fewer and quieter bubbles, and also much less severe economic downturns. For whatever reason, the FOMC members have not learned this lesson. None of them, as far as I know, is a subscriber, which is their loss.
The “Taylor Rule” for setting short term rates is an equation involving figures for GDP, inflation rate, and “potential output”, all of which are numbers which can be fudged by statisticians. The “McClellan Rule” is much simpler: listen to the 2-year T-Note Yield, which the statisticians cannot monkey around with. By this rule, the Fed is still being overly stimulative, by setting the Fed Funds target well below where it ought to be. In other words, the Fed is being “too loose” with interest rate policy, according to this measure.
But complicating that equation is what else the Fed is doing, in terms of liquidating its holdings of Treasury debt and Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS). During 3 separate rounds of “quantitative easing” or QE, the Fed got up to total holdings of $4.25 trillion. At the most rapid rate of acquisition, the Fed was buying up $85 billion per month in 2014.
In 2017, the Fed announced it would be starting to unwind those holdings, slowly at first, but accelerating to a rate of $30 billion per month of “quantitative tightening” (or QT) now in Q2 of 2018, and supposedly going to a rate of $40 billion per month in Q3. So while interest rate policy is still arguably stimulative, that effect is counteracted by what the Fed is doing in other ways, sucking liquidity out of the banking system with its QT.