The projected U.S. deficit for fiscal 2011 is $1.645 trillion. This will be funded by new issuance of Treasury securities over and above the amount needed to refinance maturing debt plus interest payments on existing debt. About 60% of outstanding Treasury issuance is in the 2-to-10 year maturity range. If we assign the 60% weight to the $1.645 trillion of new debt, we get $987 billion of new 2-to-10 year maturity Treasury notes issued in fiscal 2011 to finance the deficit. Therefore, the Fed’s buying power of $750 billion per year can monetize over 75% of the new 2-to10 year note issuance needed to fund ongoing U.S. budget deficits for the next two years without expanding the balance sheet.
The Fed is now like a 400-pound man who can eat 5,000 calories per day without gaining weight because his morbidly obese metabolism requires it to function. The discussion of QE, QE2 and QE3 has become irrelevant. What we have is permanent QE until such time as the Fed decides to tighten financial conditions. This is unlikely to happen until mid-2012 at the earliest, perhaps later in view of the housing double-dip and increasing oil prices. In any case, QE will be with us for an “extended period” no matter what the Fed announces.