The Federal Reserve had to inject cash into the repo market for the first time in a decade.
You may remember on September 11, 2008, when Tim Geithner told Hank Paulson of Lehman Brothers that he needed $230 billion to support their repo program and to keep trades afloat. Since then, the Fed has printed so much cash that the last thing anyone would expect is that the trading system could run dry.
The Fed’s balance sheet swelled to $4.52 trillion by January 2015, and most recently, $4.44 trillion in January 2018. Now, the balance sheet is only $3.77 trillion.
As for cash in circulation, $1.7 trillion U.S. dollars are floating around in the system.
Nothing to See Here, Folks
The Fed intervention in the repo market was somewhat commonplace before the Great Recession. The market meltdown and seasoned investing expert’s kind of yawned. This was just a unique series of events and nothing to be alarmed about.
When the “experts” say ‘be cool, all is well,’ I tend to worry a little more.
There will be more intervention this morning, so we’ll see just how cool we should be. On that note, you have to wonder if folks at the Federal Reserve were as cool as Wall Street mavens. There has been a lot of anxiety at the Fed for some time about the institution’s ability to control short-term rates.
On September 17, the effective fed funds rate rocketed to the higher end of the 2.25% rate, overnight general collateral repurchase agreements climbed almost 600 basis points (bps) to 8.75% and then settled at 7.25%. The New York Fed came to the rescue. It looked as though the kerfuffle was over until late in the session when the issue was raised again.
As it turns out, the NY Fed injected $53 billion into the repo market yesterday and $75 billion on September 18. At the very least, these actions are a proxy on the Fed and further chip away at credibility.
DoubleLine Capital founder Jeffrey Gundlach made comments to Reuters that the episode made it more than likely the Fed would start to repurchase assets “pretty soon.” That put a spark into the market, which saw all the major indices close at the highs of the session.
His comments and observation mean Jay Powell & Co could be singing “Baby Come Back” to Quantitative Easing (QE), as they turn the money printing machine back on.
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