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The Federal Reserve’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in its size and scope. In a matter of months, the Fed has, among other things, cut the federal funds rate to the zero lower bound, purchased a large amount of Treasury securities and agency mortgage‑backed securities (MBS) and, together with the U.S. Treasury, introduced several lending facilities. Some of these facilities are very similar to ones introduced during the 2007-09 financial crisis while others are completely new. In this post, we argue that the new facilities, while unprecedented, are a natural extension of the Fed’s toolkit, as they operate through similar economic mechanisms to prevent self-reinforcing bad outcomes. We also explain why these new facilities are particularly useful as part of the response to the pandemic, which is an economic shock very different from a financial crisis.
Antoine Martin, James J. McAndrews, Ali Palida, and David Skeie
Since 2008, the Federal Reserve has dramatically increased the supply of bank reserves, effectively adopting a floor system for monetary policy implementation. Since then, the behavior of short-term money market rates has been at times puzzling. In particular, short-term rates have been surprisingly firm in recent months, despite the large increase in reserves by the Fed as a part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic. In this post, we provide evidence that both the supply of reserves and the supply of short-term Treasury securities are important factors for explaining short-term rates.
In response to disorderly market conditions in mid-March 2020, the Federal Reserve began an asset purchase program designed to improve market functioning in the Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS) markets. The 2020 purchases have no parallel, but there are several instances of large SOMA purchases undertaken to support Treasury market functions in earlier decades. This post recaps three such episodes, one in 1939 at the start of World War II, one in 1958 in connection with a poorly received Treasury financing, and a third in 1970, also in connection with a Treasury financing. The three episodes, together with the more recent intervention, demonstrate the Fed’s long-standing and continuing commitment to the maintenance of orderly market functioning in markets where it conducts monetary policy operations—formerly limited to the Treasury market, but now also including the agency MBS market.
Jiakai Chen, Haoyang Liu, David Rubio, Asani Sarkar, and Zhaogang Song
The COVID-19 pandemic elevated financial market illiquidity and volatility, especially in March 2020. The mortgage-backed securities (MBS) market, which plays a critical role in the housing market by funding the vast majority of U.S. residential mortgages, also suffered a period of dysfunction. In this post, we study a particular aspect of MBS market disruptions by showing how a long-standing relationship between cash and forward markets broke down, in spite of MBS dealers increasing the provision of liquidity. (See our related staff report for greater detail.) We also highlight an innovative response by the Federal Reserve that seemed to have helped to normalize market functioning.
On March 23, the Open Market Trading Desk (the Desk) at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York initiated plans to purchase agency commercial mortgage-backed securities (agency CMBS) at the direction of the FOMC in order to support smooth market functioning of the markets for these securities. This post describes the deterioration in market conditions that led to agency CMBS purchases, how the Desk conducts these operations, and how market functioning has improved since the start of the purchase operations.
Gara Afonso, Marco Cipriani, Gabriele La Spada, and Will Riordan
Aggregate reserves declined from nearly $3 trillion in August 2014 to $1.4 trillion in mid-September 2019, as the Federal Reserve normalized its balance sheet. This decline came to a halt in September 2019 when the Federal Reserve responded to turmoil in short-term money markets, with reserves fluctuating around $1.6 trillion in the early months of 2020. Then, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve dramatically expanded its balance sheet, both directly, through outright purchases and repurchase agreements, and indirectly, as a consequence of the facilities to support market functioning and the flow of credit to the real economy. In this post, we characterize the increase in reserves between March and June 2020, describing changes to the distribution and concentration of reserves.
Donald P. Morgan, Dong Beom Choi, and Michael R. Holcomb
Leverage limits as a form of capital regulation have a well-known, potential bug: If banks can’t lever returns as desired, they can boost returns on equity by shifting toward riskier, higher yielding assets. That reach for yield is the leverage rule “arbitrage.” But would banks do that? In a previous post, we discussed evidence from our working paper that banks did do just that in response to the new leverage rule that took effect in 2018. This post discusses new findings in our revised paper on when and how banks arbitraged.
Marco Cipriani, Andrew Haughwout, Ben Hyman, Anna Kovner, Gabriele La Spada, Matthew Lieber, and Shawn Nee
In March, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the market for municipal securities was severely stressed: mutual fund redemptions sparked unprecedented selling of municipal securities, yields increased sharply, and issuance dried up. In this post, we describe the evolution of municipal bond market conditions since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. We show that conditions in municipal markets have improved significantly, in part a result of the announcement and implementation of several Federal Reserve facilities. Yields have decreased substantially, mutual funds have received significant inflows, and issuance has rebounded. These improvements in municipal market conditions help ensure that state and local governments have better access to funding for critical capital investments.
Nicola Cetorelli, Linda S. Goldberg, and Fabiola Ravazzolo
The onset of the COVID-19 shock in March 2020 brought large changes to the balance sheets of the U.S. branches of foreign banking organizations (FBOs). Most of these branches saw sizable usage of committed credit lines by U.S.-based clients, resulting in increased funding needs. In this post, we show that branches of FBOs from countries whose central banks used standing swap lines with the Federal Reserve (“standing swap central banks”—SSCBs) met their increased funding needs by accessing dollars that flowed into the United States through their foreign parent banks. This volume of dollar inflows accounted for at least half of the late March aggregate take-up at SSCB dollar operations.
This post is part of an ongoing series on the credit and liquidity facilities established by the Federal Reserve to support households and businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.
On April 9, 2020, the Federal Reserve announced that it would take additional actions to provide up to $2.3 trillion in loans to support the economy in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Among the measures taken was the establishment of a new facility intended to facilitate lending to small businesses via the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Under the Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility (PPPLF), Federal Reserve Banks are authorized to supply liquidity to financial institutions participating in the PPP in the form of term financing on a non-recourse basis while taking PPP loans as collateral. The facility was launched April 16, 2020. As of May 7, it had issued over $29 billion in loans (see the H.4.1 Statistical Release). This post lays out the background for the PPPLF and discusses its intended effects.
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.
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