Wednesday, May 24, 2017

FOMC Minutes: More details on Balance Sheet Reduction

by Bill McBride on 5/24/2017 02:05:00 PM

From the Fed: Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, May 2-3, 2017. Excerpts:

Participants continued their discussion of issues related to potential changes to the Committee's policy of reinvesting principal payments from securities held in the SOMA. The staff provided a briefing that summarized a possible operational approach to reducing the System's securities holdings in a gradual and predictable manner. Under the proposed approach, the Committee would announce a set of gradually increasing caps, or limits, on the dollar amounts of Treasury and agency securities that would be allowed to run off each month, and only the amounts of securities repayments that exceeded the caps would be reinvested each month. As the caps increased, reinvestments would decline, and the monthly reductions in the Federal Reserve's securities holdings would become larger. The caps would initially be set at low levels and then be raised every three months, over a set period of time, to their fully phased-in levels. The final values of the caps would then be maintained until the size of the balance sheet was normalized.

Nearly all policymakers expressed a favorable view of this general approach. Policymakers noted that preannouncing a schedule of gradually increasing caps to limit the amounts of securities that could run off in any given month was consistent with the Committee's intention to reduce the Federal Reserve's securities holdings in a gradual and predictable manner as stated in the Committee's Policy Normalization Principles and Plans. Limiting the magnitude of the monthly reductions in the Federal Reserve's securities holdings on an ongoing basis could help mitigate the risk of adverse effects on market functioning or outsized effects on interest rates. The approach would also likely be fairly straightforward to communicate. Moreover, under this approach, the process of reducing the Federal Reserve's securities holdings, once begun, could likely proceed without a need for the Committee to make adjustments as long as there was no material deterioration in the economic outlook.

Policymakers agreed that the Committee's Policy Normalization Principles and Plans should be augmented soon to provide additional details about the operational plan to reduce the Federal Reserve's securities holdings over time. Nearly all policymakers indicated that as long as the economy and the path of the federal funds rate evolved as currently expected, it likely would be appropriate to begin reducing the Federal Reserve's securities holdings this year. Policymakers agreed to continue in June their discussion of plans for a change to the Committee's reinvestment policy.
emphasis added