Friday, February 27, 2015

Fed's Fischer: "Conducting Monetary Policy with a Large Balance Sheet"

by Bill McBride on 2/27/2015 01:35:00 PM

A review of policy normalization by Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer: Conducting Monetary Policy with a Large Balance Sheet (excerpt)

Turning to policy normalization, the FOMC and market participants anticipate that the federal funds rate will be raised sometime this year. We have for some years been considering ways to operate monetary policy with an elevated balance sheet.

Prior to the financial crisis, because reserve balances outstanding averaged only around $25 billion, relatively minor variations in the total amount of reserves supplied by the Desk could move the equilibrium federal funds rate up or down. With the nearly $3 trillion in excess reserves today, the traditional mechanism of adjustments in the quantity of reserve balances to achieve the desired level of the effective federal funds rate may well not be feasible or sufficiently predictable.

As discussed in the FOMC's statement on its Policy Normalization Principles and Plans, which was published following the September 2014 FOMC meeting, we will use the rate of interest paid on excess reserves (IOER) as our primary tool to move the federal funds rate into the target range.5 This action should encourage banks not to lend to any private counterparty at a rate lower than the rate they can earn on balances maintained at the Fed, which should put upward pressure on a range of short-term interest rates.

Because not all institutions have access to the IOER rate, we will also use an overnight reverse repurchase agreement (ON RRP) facility, as needed. In an ON RRP operation, eligible counterparties may invest funds with the Fed overnight at a given rate. The ON RRP counterparties include 106 money market funds, 22 broker-dealers, 24 depository institutions, and 12 government-sponsored enterprises, including several Federal Home Loan Banks, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Farmer Mac. This facility should encourage these institutions to be unwilling to lend to private counterparties in money markets at a rate below that offered on overnight reverse repos by the Fed. Indeed, testing to date suggests that ON RRP operations have generally been successful in establishing a soft floor for money market interest rates.6

The Fed could also employ other tools, such as term deposits issued through the Term Deposit Facility and term RRPs, to help drain reserves and put additional upward pressure on short-term interest rates. We have been testing these tools and believe they would help support money market rates, if needed.

Finally, with regard to balance sheet normalization, the FOMC has indicated that it does not anticipate sales of agency mortgage-backed securities, and that it plans to normalize the size of the balance sheet primarily by ceasing reinvestment of principal payments on its existing securities holdings when the time comes. As illustrated in figure 4, cumulative repayments of principal on our existing securities holdings from now through the end of 2025 are projected to be about $3.2 trillion. As a result, when the FOMC chooses to cease reinvestments, the size of the balance sheet will naturally decline, with a corresponding reduction in reserve balances.
emphasis added