In our previous post, we discussed the meaning of the term “credit allocation” and how it relates to the Federal Reserve’s holdings of agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS). We concluded that the Fed’s MBS holdings do not pose significant credit risk but that the Fed does influence the relative market price of credit when it purchases agency MBS, and this indirectly influences decisions by investors. Today, we take the next step and discuss how the Fed’s MBS purchases affect the U.S. economy and, in particular, how the effect of MBS purchases can differ from the effect of purchases of Treasury securities.
It is sometimes said that the Federal Reserve should not engage in “credit allocation.” But what does credit allocation actually mean? And how do current Fed policies affect the allocation of credit? In this post, we describe two separate ideas often associated with credit allocation. The first idea is that the Fed should not take credit risk, which taxpayers would ultimately have to bear. The second idea is that the Fed’s actions should not influence the flow of credit to particular sectors. We consider whether the Fed’s holdings of agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS) could affect the allocation of credit. In a companion post, we discuss how the economic effects of the Fed’s MBS holdings compare with the economic effects of more traditional holdings.
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 rise in the ten-year Treasury rate last summer was perhaps the most dramatic since the 2003 bond market sell-off.
As of mid-December, the average thirty-year fixed-rate mortgage was near its historic low of about 3.3 percent, or half its level in August 2007 when financial turmoil began.