Thursday, May 21, 2009

WSJ: "Fed Open to Buying More Securities"

As reported in the Wall Street Journal today, apparently there's talk among some members of the Fed's FOMC regarding the idea of purchasing more Treasury bonds and Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS). In other words, they want to see low rates for a longer period of time.
Some Federal Reserve officials are open to raising the amounts of mortgage and Treasury securities purchase programs beyond the $1.75 trillion that they have already committed to buying, according to minutes from the Fed’s April meeting.

Some members noted that a further increase in the total amount of purchases might well be warranted at some point to spur a more rapid pace of recovery,” according to the minutes of the April 28-29 meeting, released Wednesday with the usual lag. (Read the full minutes.)
The Fed can achieve low mortgage rates by increasing its purchases of MBS - when prices rise, yields (rates) fall. But it takes money, and lots of it. So the longer rates are artificially kept low, the larger the Fed's tab grows. adds a perspective to the issue with it's most recent post about the Fed's slowing MBS purchases:
In a bid to keep interest rates on mortgages lower for a longer period of the time, the Fed has apparently decided to slow its purchase of mortgage bonds, according to a research note from Credit Suisse.

The analysts said they believe Fed involvement in the mortgage-backed securities market will be necessary well into 2010, and as a result, they’ll need to slow buying so it there’s enough purchasing power to remain engaged next year.

As the government reduces its purchases of MBS (and assuming investor demand stays the same), MBS prices will drop and mortgage rates will go up.

So are these two actions incompatible - slowing down purchases of MBS but increasing purchase funding? Not necessarily, because Fed could do both at the same time, all in an attempt to keep the low rate train rolling on.

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