Baseball great Yogi Berra once said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” He may have been on to something.
Last May, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke introduced the idea the Fed's economic stimulus program, known as Quantitative Easing (QE), might be ratcheted down sooner rather than later. The concept, that easy money – the Fed has injected about $2.75 trillion into financial markets during the past five years – could soon be behind us, threw global markets into a tizzy.
Expectations that interest rates in more developed economies would move higher as QE tapered off caused investors to pull money from emerging markets (where many had sought higher returns). This created challenges in emerging countries with large current account deficits (deficits that occur when total imports exceed total exports, making a country a debtor nation).
So, what will happen when the Fed actually begins to buy fewer bonds? Pundits are mixed in their opinions. Some believe markets may become more volatile; others believe markets have already factored in the effects of tapering. In August, the Financial Times described it this way:
“The beginning of the end for QE matters greatly as for the past five years central banks led by the Fed have actively encouraged investors to pile into risky assets. With QE suppressing interest rates and more importantly, the volatility of prices, investors duly obliged and sought risky assets. Now with the Fed thinking about reversing some support, this summer’s turmoil may be a taste of what is coming in the form of higher long-term bond yields and market volatility. Some will argue the Fed’s taper is pretty much reflected by the sharp rise we have seen in long-term Treasury yields since May.”
We’ll know more when the Federal Open Market Committee announcement is made. Over time, however, it may not be all that easy to quantify the effects of more accommodative monetary policy in the United States, if that’s what the Fed chooses to do this week. There are other flashpoints that could affect markets, as well, including economic stressors in emerging markets, decisions on Syria, and upcoming Washington budget battles.
Data as of 9/13/13
1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks) 2.0% 18.4% 15.6% 14.6% 7.2% 5.2%
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.9 NA 1.8 2.7 3.5 4.2
Gold (per ounce) -5.0 -22.2 -23.9 2.0 11.2 13.4
DJ-UBS Commodity Index -1.1 -7.0 -14.1 -1.9 -5.6 0.8
DJ Equity All REIT TR Index 2.3 2.3 1.3 11.8 7.1 9.8
Notes: S&P 500, Gold, DJ-UBS Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT TR Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.
EXPLORING THE INTERNET OF EVERYTHING… Before you read further, you may want to cue the music to Hanna Barbera’s space age cartoon, The Jetsons. The Internet of Everything (a.k.a. The Internet of Things) seems to be bringing the world closer to a reality where your refrigerator can order groceries, your smartphone can start your car, and tattoos only show when you want them to be seen. Two of the keys to connecting everyday things to each other and to the Internet are radio frequency identification (RFID) chips and Near Field Communication (NFC) systems.
RFID chips are all around us. Companies use them to manage inventories, farmers use them to track livestock and, in Boston, commuters use 3D-printed, chip-embedded rings to pay for mass transit. If you’ve traveled overseas recently, you probably used an RFID chip. Newer American passports have chips embedded to make it easier for Homeland Security to read them. In addition, contactless smart credit cards, which rely on chips and pin codes, are the standard across most of Europe and much of South America and Asia. As a result, Americans who try to use credit cards that have magnetic stripes and require signatures sometimes face challenges when trying to pay for goods abroad.
NFC is short-range wireless communications technology that may be best known for making it easier to pay for things with your smartphone or tablet. According to Venture Beat, an online magazine that focuses on the role of technology in daily life, one of the most powerful applications of NFC technology may be tag writing and reading. How does it work? Imagine this:
“When you arrive at home you will hold your phone up to the NFC tag embedded in the door. This will turn the electronic lock, opening the door, but it will also switch your phones to “home mode,” enabling it to use your home Wi-Fi network and launching an app that connects to your home server to turn on the lights. Heading to the kitchen, you might then put your tablet next to the stovetop to begin cooking the evening meal. NFC tags in the tablet and stovetop recognize each other, the tablet starts up the recipe app with instructions on cooking tonight’s dinner. At the end of the evening, you’ll place your device on the bedside table and the proximity to another tag will bring up the clock/alarm app.”
Just think. Someday, the Internet of Everything may even include Jetsons-style flying cars.
Weekly Focus – Think About It
Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.
--John Steinbeck, American writer