Fed Promises Unlimited QE, Corporate Bond Buying, Muni Buying, and Main Street Credit

Fed Chair Jerome Powell Addresses Rural Housing Conference In Washington DC (Mark Wilson / Getty)
Mark Wilson / Getty

The Federal Reserve said Monday it will purchase unlimited amounts of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities and buy corporate bonds, municipal bonds, and asset-backed securities for the first time.

The Fed announced a major expansion of its programs to support the economy on Monday morning following several days of frantic moves by the central bank to expand its support for credit and money markets. Fiscal support for the economy, in the form of spending and lending programs from the federal government, stalled on Capitol Hill over the weekend.

The Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed’s monetary policymaking unit, said it would purchase Treasury and mortgage securities “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning and effective transmission of monetary policy to broader financial conditions and the economy.”

The FOMC had previously said it would purchase at least $500 billion of Treasury securities and at least $200 billion of mortgage-backed securities. The new announcement removes those caps and essentially means the Fed will purchase unlimited amounts of the bonds, a program some on Wall Street refer to “QE infinity.”

The Fed also said it was launching two new bond buying programs that would purchase bonds directly from corporations and from the secondary market where bonds already issued are trading. This would be the first time the Fed became a direct purchaser of bonds issued by the corporate sector. The new programs are known as the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility (PMCCF) for new bond and loan issuance and the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF) for outstanding corporate bonds.

The Fed said its purchases of agency-backed mortgages would be expanded to include commercial mortgages, another move aimed at bolstering the corporate sector.

A third new program, the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), will enable the issuance of asset-backed securities backed by student loans, auto loans, credit card loans, loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration, and certain other assets.

To help cities and states squeeze by the coronavirus, the Fed said it would expand its Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility (MMLF) to include a wider range of securities, including municipal variable rate demand notes and bank certificates of deposit. It is also expanding its Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF) to include high-quality, tax-exempt commercial paper as eligible securities and reducing pricing.

In an even more radical move, the Fede said i9t expects to announce soon the establishment of a Main Street Business Lending Program to support lending to eligible small-and-medium-sized businesses. The details of that program have yet to be announced but it is likely to involve the Fed buying small business loans made by banks.

 

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