Krugman: We Need $8-10 Trillion Worth of Quantitative Easing

The interesting thing about this clip is that Paul Krugman is probably right: you need trillions of printed dollars to get the stimulative effect the Federal Reserve is looking for. Ambrose Evans Pritchard was talking about taking the Fed’s balance sheet to $5 trillion in June.

Fed watchers say Mr Bernanke and his close allies at the Board in Washington are worried by signs that the US recovery is running out of steam. The ECRI leading indicator published by the Economic Cycle Research Institute has collapsed to a 45-week low of -5.7 in the most precipitous slide for half a century. Such a reading typically portends contraction within three months or so.

Key members of the five-man Board are quietly mulling a fresh burst of asset purchases, if necessary by pushing the Fed’s balance sheet from $2.4 trillion (£1.6 trillion) to uncharted levels of $5 trillion. But they are certain to face intense scepticism from regional hardliners. The dispute has echoes of the early 1930s when the Chicago Fed stymied rescue efforts.

In the video below, Paul Krugman talks about $8 – $10 trillion of Treasury buying. I think the sum needed to provide the stimulus the Fed wants could be higher still. Krugman doesn’t think this will happen.

Earlier today I picked up on a Reuters piece on this issue at Portfolio.com. It says:

"One should not expect too much from further quantitative or credit easing," said Olivier Blanchard, the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. "It should be done but the implications for the economy will be limited."

Christina Romer, who recently stepped down as a White House economic adviser, said the Fed is in uncharted waters and it is unclear how much further easing will accomplish.

"There’s a lot of questions about quantitative easing and how it works and how communications policies work, but they need to be tried because this is still a crisis," she said.

My take: monetary policy won’t have much oomph here. Fiscal policy is better and more targeted. But, of course, fiscal policy is off the table except for a re-institution of the Bush tax cuts. So, we’ll see some serious money printing instead – probably not $10 trillion, but a lot.

Also see the Gold 24-hour Spot Chart at Kitco. Gold has reached another record near $1377.

As for Krugman’s arguments regarding China, I don’t agree at all.

Update: 19 Oct 2010: PS – This article is NOT an endorsement of quantitative easing. Those of you who have read CW know this. But for those of you who are new here and don’t do subtlety, the reference to the gold price tells you that.

About 

Edward Harrison is the founder of Credit Writedowns and a former career diplomat, investment banker and technology executive with over twenty years of business experience. He is also a regular economic and financial commentator on BBC World News, CNBC Television, Business News Network, CBC, Fox Television and RT Television. He speaks six languages and reads another five, skills he uses to provide a more global perspective. Edward holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College. Edward also writes a premium financial newsletter. Sign up here for a free trial.