So now its official. This week, the US Federal Reserve confirmed it was launching its ‘QE2 Lifeboat’. It will inject $600bn into the US economy, in yet another bid to kick-start full economic recovery.
Clearly, this is a major initiative by the world’s most important central bank. Will it work? And what might it mean for the chemical industry?
The answer to the first question is uncertain. Martin Feldstein, the blog’s favourite economist and one of the very few to correctly forecast the start of the downturn, says it is a:
“Dangerous gamble with only a small potential upside benefit and substantial risks of creating asset bubbles that could destabilise the global economy”.
Feldstein is Harvard’s Professor of Economics, and so his views carry weight.
So what about the 2nd question? Here, markets have already given their answer, pushing the price of crude oil above $87/bbl. They expect QE2 to weaken the US$, and so they see commodities as a ‘store of value’.
This cannot be good for the chemical industry. Rising oil prices will encourage inventory-build, just as we saw in 2007 – H1 2008, and 1979 – 1980. They will also reduce discretionary purchasing power, vital for chemical consumption, as consumers still have to purchase gasoline and heating fuel, even if prices rise.
All in all, therefore, the Fed’s move simply creates more uncertainty, confirming the blog’s fears when it published its recent Budget Outlook.