It’s almost embarrassing to watch the contortions the Federal Reserve is engaging in to absolve itself of any role in fueling the run-up in commodity prices since the end of August.
The latest comes in the form of an “Economic Letter” from San Francisco Fed economists Reuven Glick and Sylvain Leduc. That’s right, who better to objectively state that the Fed’s policies aren’t pumping up commodities…than a branch of the Fed? This four-plus pager, best I can tell, rests on the conclusion that the Fed’s QE measures aren’t to blame for the spike in commodity prices because “commodity prices actually tended to fall” following Fed announcements on large-scale asset purchases.
Sounds as if Glick and Leduc aren’t familiar with the old adage “buy on rumor, sell on news.”
For my money, the only “announcements” that mattered were Bernanke’s late-August Jackson Hole speech, which got the whole commodities complex (not to mention stocks) a-running, and the fait accompli announcement November 3rd with the program details. And whether or not commodities dipped on those days — or any other LSAP announcement days — is irrelevant because the trend has remained higher since Jackson Hole.
While some Fed officials have been more frank about the role of QE II in pushing up commodity prices, others have dismissed it out of hand, instead placing the blame squarely on supply and demand and surging growth in emerging markets. Indeed, that’s the official story from the central bank, as if that global growth trend only became obvious seven months ago, coincidentally at the same time Fed chair Bernanke first suggested QE II was a real possibility.
We’ve taken issue with the Fed a few times before (here, here and here) over this “don’t-look-at-me” attitude, pretending its free-flowing liquidity measures aren’t affecting commodity prices. In some cases, like cotton, we’re sure there are legitimate supply and demand issues. But we’re not buying that story for every commodity across the board.
Silly exercises like the one from the San Fran Fed are wholly unconvincing and, as we’ve noted before, only serve to further undermine the central bank’s credibility.