2012 might go down in the books as the "Year of the Fed," as the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks around the globe took unprecedented efforts to jump-start economic growth and soothe worried market participants. In the U.S., the Fed extended or launched multiple rounds of increasingly accommodative monetary programs, culminating with a fresh batch in December. This latest round commits the Fed to monthly purchases of $45 billion in Treasuries on top of the $40 billion per month in mortgage-backed bonds that it was already buying under "Operation Twist." This will be funded by effectively creating new money and will lead to a significant expansion of the Fed's balance sheet. To underscore the gravity of its decisions, the Fed surprisingly indicated it would keep easing programs and low interest rate policies in place until specific levels of unemployment and inflation are achieved.