Thursday, February 16, 2012

The FED's fight against deflation

Since the Great Financial Crisis began the number one enemy central bankers and their governments are fighting is deflation. 
The chart below is a ratio chart of the iShares Barclays TIPS Bond Fund divided by the iShares Barclays 7 to 10 Year Treasury Bond fund.  It's designed to measure the inflationary or deflationary forces in the U.S. economy and it  depicts the FED's success (or lack thereof) in the battle:

The concept behind the chart is that TIPs (Treasury Inflation Protection Securities) are bonds investors can buy which provide protection against inflation. The principal of a TIPS increases with inflation and decreases with deflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index.  Dividing the TIPS bond fund with a bond fund that tracks the "belly" of the yield curve gives us a viable way to track whether inflation or deflation is gaining momentum in the economy.

I highlighted the Fed's liquidity programs (QE = quantitative easing) and the effect on the market.  As you can see, each subsequent FED liquidity facility has resulted in diminishing effects. 

Deflation is the bane in any economic system but especially in a Keynesian system.  It seems as though the FED is pushing on a string.  Will they open the spigots another time?  At this point I would say "no" but if this chart starts to head lower the possibility exists they will once again intervene.