“The taper” is coming. And the Fed gave us clues as to when it’ll arrive.

First the scoreboard:

Dow: 15,284, -103.3 pts, -0.6%
S&P 500: 1,652, -16.9 pts, -1.0%
NASDAQ: 3,455, -47.2 pts, -1.3%

And now the top stories:

  • In recent weeks, there has been chatter about a tapering of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program.  Specifically, the Fed has been buying $85 billion worth of bonds each month in its effort to lower interest rates, stimulate lending activity, and boost the economy.  Many have argue that this has also caused bond investors to flee the bond market and head to the stock market.  With the economy showing signs of improvement, people think that it has become increasingly likely that the Fed will slow down its easy monetary policy.
  • At 10:00 AM ET, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.  He tried to make the point that premature tightening (or tapering) would risk slowing or even ending the economic recovery.
  • But during the Q&A, Bernanke said that the Fed could taper bond purchases in the next few meetings if the economic data supported it.  This may seem like an obvious statement.  But it spooked the markets, and it marked the highs of the day.
  • At 2:00 PM ET, the Fed released the minutes from its recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. “FOMC minutes show a willingness to taper asset purchases this year,” tweeted Deutsche Bank’s Joe LaVorgna. “We expect the taper will begin in either late Q3 or early Q4.”
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