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Friday, April 03, 2009

Bernanke on Fed's Balance Sheet

by Calculated Risk on 4/03/2009 12:08:00 PM

From Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke: The Federal Reserve's Balance Sheet. In this speech Bernanke discusses the recent Fed initiatives in terms of the impact on the balance sheet.

One key question is how all of this will be unwound. Here are some excerpts from Bernanke's speech:

In pursuing our strategy, which I have called "credit easing," we have also taken care to design our programs so that they can be unwound as markets and the economy revive. In particular, these activities must not constrain the exercise of monetary policy as needed to meet our congressional mandate to foster maximum sustainable employment and stable prices.
The large volume of reserve balances outstanding must be monitored carefully, as--if not carefully managed--they could complicate the Fed's task of raising short-term interest rates when the economy begins to recover or if inflation expectations were to begin to move higher. We have a number of tools we can use to reduce bank reserves or increase short-term interest rates when that becomes necessary. First, many of our lending programs extend credit primarily on a short-term basis and thus could be wound down relatively quickly. In addition, since the lending rates in these programs are typically set above the rates that prevail in normal market conditions, borrower demand for these facilities should wane as conditions improve. Second, the Federal Reserve can conduct reverse repurchase agreements against its long-term securities holdings to drain bank reserves or, if necessary, it could choose to sell some of its securities. Of course, for any given level of the federal funds rate, an unwinding of lending facilities or a sale of securities would constitute a de facto tightening of policy, and so would have to be carefully considered in that light by the FOMC. Third, some reserves can be soaked up by the Treasury's Supplementary Financing Program. Fourth, in October of last year, the Federal Reserve received long-sought authority to pay interest on the reserve balances of depository institutions. Raising the interest rate paid on reserves will encourage depository institutions to hold reserves with the Fed, rather than lending them into the federal funds market at a rate below the rate paid on reserves. Thus, the interest rate paid on reserves will tend to set a floor on the federal funds rate.
Not that we have to worry about unwinding any time soon.