Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Quant easing and the last nail in the coffin

So, a few hours ago the Bank of England started the initial pump of £2bn of "printed" money into the marketplace. Early indications are that only banks took up the offer to exchange gilts and other paper for cash.

Over the next three months the BoE intends to churn out the rest of the £75bn, and then after that another £75bn "if necessary".

The purpose of this post is to point out that we haven't quite reached the monetary nadir. So far the BoE has bought gilts, that is government bonds, from the "secondary" market, ie the banks who bought them as a form of long term saving. (A gilt typically yields 5% unlike cash savings which return closer to 0.5%.)

This operation doesn't give the UK government more money it can spend. Not until the BoE starts buying gilts directly from the Treasury can we say the dog is really eating its own vomit and the government's day to day spending is being financed by creating money. Given the decimation of the tax base and the government's reluctance to adopt any form of fiscal rectitude that day of ultimate humiliation may not be far off.

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