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August 16, 2013

Transparency and Sources of Information on the Federal Reserve’s Operations, Income, and Balance Sheet

Michael J. Fleming and Deborah Leonard

This week-long series examined the evolution of the Federal Reserve’s securities portfolio and its performance over time. While the intent has been to enhance understanding of the Fed’s activities, the Federal Reserve has long maintained a commitment to transparency and accountability. The
historical information presented in these posts represents the work of New York
Fed staff to collect portfolio-related information from annual statements and reports, most of which
are public. To enhance public access, the
resulting time series we compiled are being provided in downloadable Excel files
accompanying each post. In this last post of the series,
we review sources of information on the Fed’s operations, income, and balance

Balance Sheet and Financial Statements

The Fed has been publishing relatively detailed information on its balance sheet and
financial statements for some time.

  • The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet is presented on a weekly basis in the H.4.1 statistical release “Factors Affecting Reserve Balances of Depository Institutions and Condition Statement of Federal Reserve Banks.” This release presents a balance sheet for each Federal Reserve Bank, a consolidated balance sheet for all twelve Reserve Banks, an associated statement that lists the factors affecting reserve balances of depository institutions, and several other tables presenting information on the assets, liabilities, and commitments of the Federal Reserve Banks. The
    release has been modified over time to separately present certain line items,
    including since April 18, 2013, the amount of unamortized premiums and
    unamortized discounts on securities held outright (which were previously
    included as components of “other” assets and liabilities, respectively). The H.4.1 is typically published every Thursday around 4:30 p.m. by the Board of Governors. Releases prior to June 27, 1996, are available in the FRASER archive hosted by the St. Louis Fed.
  • The Board of Governors and the Federal Reserve Banks annually prepare and release financial statements reflecting year-end balances and income and expenses for the year then ended. They are available either as stand-alone documents (since 2008) or as part of the Board of Governors’ annual reports (prior to 2008). A full archive of the Board’s annual reports since 1914 is available on the St. Louis Fed’s FRASER archive.
  • Since 2012, unaudited quarterly
    financial reports
    present a summary of financial information on the
    combined financial position and results of operations of the Reserve Banks.

Information on Monetary Policy and the System Open Market Account

The Fed also releases detailed information on its policy decisions, and on the operations and holdings of the System Open Market Account.

  • Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) policy statements
    and meeting minutes
    explain policy decisions and directives given to the
    New York Fed for the conduct of open market operations. Since April 2011, the
    Chairman of the FOMC has held press briefings four times per year to present
    the Committee’s current economic projections and to provide additional context
    for its policy decisions. Other ad hoc, material actions taken by the Board of
    Governors or Reserve Banks are announced in press releases.
  • The New York Fed conducts open market operations on behalf of the FOMC in accordance with the Committee’s directives. In addition to publishing statements of the operating policies for conducting open market operations, the New York Fed announces its planned operations in advance and releases aggregate (and some transaction-level) results of its operations in a timely manner. Additional information explaining unconventional policy programs is provided in Frequently Asked Questions.
  • The New York Fed’s Manager of the System Open
    Market Account submits an annual report to
    the FOMC, explaining the conduct of domestic open market operations in support
    of the Committee’s directives.
  • Data detailing the specific dollar-denominated securities
    held in the System Open Market Account
    as of each weekly H.4.1 reporting
    date since 2003 are available on the New York Fed’s website. This information
    identifies the individual Treasury securities, agency debt securities, and
    agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS) held in the portfolio and their
    amounts. A historical data export builder enables users to download a snapshot
    of the portfolio as of a selected date, a time series of holdings of specific
    securities, or security-level data in quarterly (for MBS) or monthly (for
    non-MBS) intervals, as well as a summary of total holdings at weekly intervals.

Information on Crisis-Era Policy Responses and Facilities

The Fed provided significant information during the financial crisis on its policy responses and new facilities, and has reported additional detailed,
transaction-level information since the crisis on facility usage.

  • An overview of the Federal Reserve’s credit and
    liquidity programs and the balance sheet can be found here. This site
    includes descriptive information about the Fed’s activities, as well as links
    to financial reports and other transparency-related reports.
  • Detailed information about the credit and liquidity
    programs and other monetary policy tools that the Federal Reserve used to
    respond to the financial crisis that emerged in the summer of 2007 is supplied
    in monthly reports and transaction data.
  • Detailed portfolio and transactional information
    about the three limited liability companies that were established by the New York Fed to
    facilitate the acquisition of Bear Stearns by JPMorgan Chase and the
    government’s restructuring of AIG are also available.

Open Market Transactions and Lending

In addition to the information the Fed has long reported about its operations and on aggregate discount window advances, more detail is now provided in accordance with Section 1103 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
of 2010.

  • Complete details of
    individual open market transactions and discount window advances conducted
    after the date of the law’s enactment are published quarterly, approximately
    two years after the transaction was conducted. Information includes the date
    and amount of the transaction, the counterparty to the transaction, the price
    or interest rate at which the transaction was conducted, and other relevant

The views expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the authors.

Fleming_michael Michael J. Fleming is a vice president in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Research and Statistics Group.

Deborah Leonard is an assistant vice president in the Bank’s Markets Group.

About the Blog

Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.

The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.

Liberty Street Economics does not publish new posts during the blackout periods surrounding Federal Open Market Committee meetings.

The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.

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