Jan 28, 2020

Fed may address bond-buying program following repo market stress

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Data: Federal Reserve; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Fed's balance sheet shrank last week with holdings touching their lowest level since mid-December, the strongest decline since the Fed restarted its bond-buying program in September.

Why it matters: The Fed will likely have to address its longer-term plans for liquidity injections to the repo market and the program that Chairman Jerome Powell has insisted on referring to as "not QE," but many market participants have dubbed "QE4," or the fourth phase of quantitative easing.

  • Powell says the program is not a form of QE, a highly controversial stimulus program created to help dig the U.S. economy out of a hole after the financial crisis.
  • But even members of the Fed's rate-setting committee assert that the program is helping to boost the prices of risk assets like stocks.

Between the lines: That likely paints the Fed into a corner in addressing the program at its meeting tomorrow, Tom Essaye, director of Sevens Report Research, says in a note.

  • "[T]he dovish Fed has underwritten a lot of this four-plus-month rally, and they need to reassure markets they’re going to stay dovish this week."
  • "Conversely, if the Fed signals that it’s looking to determine an end to the repo operations, that will be hawkish and likely hit markets, potentially hard."

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Federal Reserve leaves interest rates on hold

Jerome Powell. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Xinhua via Getty

The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that interest rates would remain between the target range of 1.5% and 1.75%.

Why it matters: Fed chair Jerome Powell said developments in the global economy since the last Fed meeting — namely threats posed by the coronavirus outbreak — have not changed the central bank's wait-and-see approach.

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The Fed confronts the coronavirus risk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

What was going to be a very simple and straightforward policy meeting for the Fed this afternoon has been significantly complicated by the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus, fresh geopolitical tensions and an inverted yield curve.

The big picture: While no policy change is expected, all eyes will be on Chairman Jerome Powell's assessment of the economic environment and whether the U.S. central bank is leaning toward adding more stimulus or taking away the punch bowl.

Go deeperArrowJan 29, 2020

Judy Shelton vs. Fed independence

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump hasn't given up on his dream of politicizing the Fed. After failing to get Herman Cain and Stephen Moore onto the Fed's board of governors, his latest candidate is one of his former campaign advisers, Judy Shelton, who testified in front of the Senate Banking Committee today.

Why it matters: Shelton is no more qualified to sit on the Fed board than Cain or Moore. But she's already further along in the process than either of them ever managed.