Understanding the record in controlling this important price is key to understanding the housing crisis and the legacy of former Federal Reserve chairman Greenspan and the role of current chairman Bernanke.
|Source: Baltimore Sun|
But how weak was housing? The graph shows that single-family housing sales were on the upswing in 2003 as the Fed was aggressively cutting rates! Compare where housing sales were then to today, and think about the Fed and many others wondering why unemployment persists at such a high level.
Gasoline was poured on a roaring fire. Bankers packaged and sliced and diced and manipulated ratings to push mortgage-backed structured product around the world.
Then the Fed pulled the rug out from under the housing market. As shown in the first graph, they pushed the fed funds rate from 1% to above 5%. Again, the rest is history. Housing prices faltered, foreclosures rose, and the securities started to fall in price.
Today the federal funds rate is close to zero and has lost its capability to enable a pick-up in the economy. After all, it can't be pushed into negative territory. Instead the Fed has come up with a new policy approach - "quantitative easing." Quantitative easing is essentially an attempt to control the price of longer term money.
Part of the reason for the Chairman's recently instituted press conferences is to convince the American public he knows what he is doing.
Based on the record, I, for one, am not convinced.