Since the global financial crisis and Great Recession, many critics have called for regulatory and legislative reforms to restore a system of “boring” banks constrained to traditional banking activities like deposit taking and lending.
In our previous post, we considered balance sheet mechanics related to the Federal Reserve’s purchase and redemption of Treasury securities. These mechanics are fairly straightforward and help to illustrate the basic relationships among actors in the financial system. Here, we turn to transactions involving agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS), which are somewhat more complicated. We focus particularly on what happens when households pay down their mortgages, either through regular monthly amortizations or a large payment covering some or all of the outstanding balance, as might occur with a refinancing.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Markets Group today published a report presenting updated staff projections [LINK TO REPORT] for the future path of domestic securities held in the System Open Market Account (SOMA) and portfolio-related income. The updated projections incorporate very recent information and are provided as a tool for the public to further understand factors affecting the evolution of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet.
The size of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet increased greatly between 2009 and 2014 owing to large-scale asset purchases. The balance sheet has stayed at a high level since then through the ongoing reinvestment of principal repayments on securities that the Fed holds. When the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) decides to reduce the size of the Fed’s balance sheet, it is expected to do so by gradually reducing the pace of reinvestments, as outlined in the June 2017 addendum to the FOMC’s Policy Normalization Principles and Plans. How do asset purchases increase the size of the Fed’s balance sheet? And how would reducing reinvestments reduce the size of the balance sheet? In this post, we answer these questions by describing the mechanics of the Fed’s balance sheet. In our next post, we will describe the balance sheet mechanics with respect to agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS).