El-Erian blasts Fed, saying it should have been 'laser-focused' on market failures and cut rates later

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Economist Mohamed El-Erian said Monday the Federal Reserve wasted a large part of its monetary policy arsenal to fight the economic fallout of the coronavirus by doing things backward.

“There’s a problem with both what the Fed did and what the Fed did not do. As result of that, … you saw that clearly in how the futures traded,” the Allianz chief economic advisor said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

U.S. stock futures were “limit down” 5% on Monday morning despite the Fed’s extraordinary announcement Sunday of a massive monetary stimulus campaign and an interest rate cut to zero. The exchange-traded fund that tracks the S&P 500, which has no mechanism to curb downside, was off more than 9%.

“We should have been more laser-like focused on areas of market failures … and then followed up with more general interest rate cuts when that can have an impact,” El-Erian argued, stressing that lowering rates and making loans cheaper won’t change the spending behavior of consumers who are not leaving their homes.

The Fed on Sunday cut rates by 1% in an emergency move down to 2008 financial-crisis levels of 0% to 0.25%. Rates during and after the crisis stayed near zero for seven years before the first hike in 2015.

In another action from the financial-crisis playbook, the Fed launched a massive $700 billion quantitative easing program as well as multiple other measures aimed at keeping liquidity flowing through the financial system.

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