THE BASIS POINT

Fed Quantitative Easing Round 2: No More Stimulus For Mortgages, Will Buy $600b In Treasuries

The Fed said it will buy $600b in long-term Treasuries from now until June 30, 2011 as part of a second round of quantitative easing, and made no mention of buying more mortgage bonds. Buying Treasuries helps overall rates in the economy but has no direct impact on mortgage rates like buying mortgage bonds does. Since the Fed will also be reinvesting proceeds from principal payments on its mortgage bond holdings into Treasuries, total Treasury buying will be more like $850-900b according to the New York Fed. The Fed’s FOMC said they will evaluate further asset purchases as needed, but for now, they have no plans to help mortgage rates by buying more mortgage bonds. They also voted to keep the overnight bank-to-bank Fed Funds Rate even at .25%. Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig was again the only FOMC member voting against more quantitative easing and keeping overnight rates so low–he’s now dissented at all seven FOMC meetings in 2011.

The Fed’s low rate and quantitative easing policies are designed to prevent deflation and stimulate growth to the point of seeing inflation, at which point they’d reverse these stimulative policies. For now, mortgage bonds are swinging rather wildly between gains from early today to par. Until trading plays out for today, rates are still holding near record lows. The full Fed statement is below.

Full November 3 FOMC Statement
Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in September confirms that the pace of recovery in output and employment continues to be slow. Household spending is increasing gradually, but remains constrained by high unemployment, modest income growth, lower housing wealth, and tight credit. Business spending on equipment and software is rising, though less rapidly than earlier in the year, while investment in nonresidential structures continues to be weak. Employers remain reluctant to add to payrolls. Housing starts continue to be depressed. Longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable, but measures of underlying inflation have trended lower in recent quarters.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. Currently, the unemployment rate is elevated, and measures of underlying inflation are somewhat low, relative to levels that the Committee judges to be consistent, over the longer run, with its dual mandate. Although the Committee anticipates a gradual return to higher levels of resource utilization in a context of price stability, progress toward its objectives has been disappointingly slow.

To promote a stronger pace of economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with its mandate, the Committee decided today to expand its holdings of securities. The Committee will maintain its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its securities holdings. In addition, the Committee intends to purchase a further $600 billion of longer-term Treasury securities by the end of the second quarter of 2011, a pace of about $75 billion per month. The Committee will regularly review the pace of its securities purchases and the overall size of the asset-purchase program in light of incoming information and will adjust the program as needed to best foster maximum employment and price stability.

The Committee will maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and continues to anticipate that economic conditions, including low rates of resource utilization, subdued inflation trends, and stable inflation expectations, are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate for an extended period.

The Committee will continue to monitor the economic outlook and financial developments and will employ its policy tools as necessary to support the economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with its mandate.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; James Bullard; Elizabeth A. Duke; Sandra Pianalto; Sarah Bloom Raskin; Eric S. Rosengren; Daniel K. Tarullo; Kevin M. Warsh; and Janet L. Yellen.

Voting against the policy was Thomas M. Hoenig. Mr. Hoenig believed the risks of additional securities purchases outweighed the benefits. Mr. Hoenig also was concerned that this continued high level of monetary accommodation increased the risks of future financial imbalances and, over time, would cause an increase in long-term inflation expectations that could destabilize the economy.