With Abundant Reserves, Do Banks Adjust Reserve Balances to Accommodate Payment Flows?
As a result of the global financial crisis (GFC), the Federal Reserve switched from a regime of scarce reserves to one of abundant reserves. In this post, we explore how banks’ day-to-day management of reserve balances with respect to payment flows changed with this regime switch. We find that bank behavior did not change on average; under both regimes, banks increased their opening balances when they expected higher outgoing payments and, similarly, decreased these balances with expected higher incoming payments. There are substantial differences across banks, however. At the introduction of the abundant-reserves regime, small domestic banks no longer adjusted balances alongside changes in outgoing payments.
The Making of Fallen Angels—and What QE and Credit Rating Agencies Have to Do with It
Riskier firms typically borrow at higher rates than safer firms because investors require compensation for taking on more risk. However, since 2009 this relationship has been turned on its head in the massive BBB corporate bond market, with risky BBB-rated firms borrowing at lower rates than their safer BBB-rated peers. The resulting risk materialized in an unprecedented wave of “fallen angels” (or firms downgraded below the BBB investment-grade threshold) at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this post, based on a related Staff Report, we claim that this anomaly has been driven by a combination of factors: a boost in investor demand for investment-grade bonds associated with the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing (QE) and sluggish adjustment of credit ratings for risky BBB issuers.
The International Experience of Central Bank Asset Purchases and Inflation
Recent inflationary pressures in the global economy have rekindled the debate on the link between money growth and price stability. Specifically, does rapid central bank money creation resulting from large-scale purchases of government securities fuel inflationary spending by households and firms? We argue that there are many valid reasons to be skeptical about this textbook narrative. In this post, we look at the international experience with regard to asset purchases, money growth, and inflation dynamics in the pre-COVID era in an attempt to draw lessons from the recent past. Most notably, we find that the view that large-scale purchases of sovereign debt cause unmanageable inflationary pressures is not supported by the experiences of foreign advanced economies. As a matter of fact, despite the extent and duration of the quantitative easing programs in those economies, central banks faced challenges in achieving their inflation objectives.
Should Emerging Economies Embrace Quantitative Easing during the Pandemic?
Emerging economies are fighting COVID-19 and the economic sudden stop imposed by lockdown policies. Even before COVID-19 took root in emerging economies, however, investors had already started to flee these markets–to a much greater extent than they had at the onset of the 2008 global financial crisis (IMF, 2020; World Bank, 2020). Such sudden stops in capital flows can cause significant drops in economic activity, with recoveries that can take several years to complete (Benigno et al. 2020). Unfortunately, austerity and currency depreciations as enacted during the global financial crisis won’t mitigate this double whammy of capital outflows and policies to cope with the pandemic. We argue that purchases of local currency government bonds could be a viable option for credible emerging market central banks to support macroeconomic policy goals in these circumstances.
Will “Quantitative Easing” Trigger Inflation?
The Federal Reserve announced on November 3, 2010, that in the interest of stimulating economic recovery, it would purchase $600 billion of longer-term Treasury securities. The announcement led some commentators to conjecture that the Fed’s large-scale asset purchase (LSAP) program—popularly known as “quantitative easing”—is more likely to trigger inflation than stimulate recovery. This post discusses why those concerns may be misplaced, and also why they are not without some basis. A recent Liberty Street Economics post by James J. McAndrews—“Will the Federal Reserve’s Asset Purchases Lead to Higher Inflation?” addressed the same issue from a broader perspective and came to a substantially similar conclusion.