Barring a major unanticipated shock, the Federal Reserve will announce this week after a two-day meeting in Washington that it will cut its bond purchases to $25 billion a month in August and September. Then, at its September and October meetings, it will successively cut the purchases down to $15 billion and finally zero.
At that point, the Fed's purchases of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities in its latest round of so-called quantitative easing, begun in late 2012, will total $1.603 trillion.
For perspective, if the Fed were allowed to buy stocks, at current prices it could have bought Apple, Google and Microsoft for that sum -- with General Motors and Ford thrown into the mix, with $44 billion left over.
The Fed's previous bond-buying program, known popularly as QE2, involved only $600 billion spent over the course of 2010 and 2011.
When former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke started the latest, open-ended quantitative easing program in 2012, he said the bond purchases were "about creating some near-term momentum in the economy" -- and avoiding a deflationary double-dip recession.
With the unemployment rate now having fallen to 6.1 percent, it appears that the momentum Bernanke hoped for may have taken hold despite all the ups and downs, including the sequester and the government shutdown. Analysts expect the Bureau of Labor Statistics to report Friday that the economy added another 200,000-plus payroll jobs in July, making it the sixth month in a row to exceed 200,000 new jobs, and that the unemployment rate either declined to 6 percent or held at 6.1 percent.
Economists also expect that Wednesday's estimate of gross domestic product for the second quarter from the Bureau of Economic Analysis will show that the economy grew at a rate above 3 percent annually, following the disappointing 3 percent contraction in the first quarter.
It's a big week for economic data and for tracking the success of the $1.6 trillion monetary stimulus.