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Did QE2 lead to inflation?

An inflation headline in a newspaper.

JEREMY HOBSON: Now let's get to the Fed. Today is the last day of June, which means it's the last day of the Fed's $600 billion bond-buying program known as Quantitative Easing Two, or QE2 for short. The program was meant to boost lending and spending by injecting a lot of cash into the economy.

Diane Swonk is chief economist with Mesirow Financial. She's with us live from Chicago as she is every Thursday. Good morning.

DIANE SWONK: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: Well Diane, some people say that this QE2 program actually led to inflation, it drove oil prices higher and hurt the economy. Is there any truth to that?

SWONK: Well, you know you just pointed out that commodity prices tend to be self-correcting. The corn crop is one example for that, but there are so many factors pushing things like oil prices higher. Most notably political unease and the Arab Spring in the Middle East and it's hard to pin the Fed on that. And I think that's a very important issue -- is to understand how complex these markets actually are.

CHIOTAKIS: Well, so, do you think that if some of the big problems around the world get worse, or right in Washington with this debt ceiling debate that the Fed would step in again later with a QE3?

SWONK: I think the threshold for the Fed to do additional stimulus at this stage of the game is much higher than many financial markets are giving them credit for. It would take nothing short of a double dip recession. Now if the debt ceiling has failed to be lifted and that triggers another panic, perhaps even worse than what we saw in the wake of Lehman -- it would be Lehman on steroids I think. As some people have pointed out, that is something we have to really worry about and the Fed would certainly step in at that stage of the game.

CHIOTAKIS: Diane Swonk, chief economist with Mesirow Financial. Thanks as always.

SWONK: Thank you.

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