Coronavirus: US Federal Reserve Takes Extensive Action to Stem Economic Hardship

The US Federal Reserve has announced “extensive” measures to support the economy that has struggled as the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has devastated both small and large industries.

The Fed said that while great uncertainty remains, it has become clear that our economy will face severe disruptions.

“Aggressive efforts must be taken across the public and private sectors to limit the losses to jobs and incomes and to promote a swift recovery once the disruptions abate,” stated the Fed.

These actions include:

  • Support for critical market functioning. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will purchase Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed 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 announced it would purchase at least $500 billion of Treasury securities and at least $200 billion of mortgage-backed securities. In addition, the FOMC will include purchases of agency commercial mortgage-backed securities in its agency mortgage-backed security purchases.
  • Supporting the flow of credit to employers, consumers, and businesses by establishing new programs that, taken together, will provide up to $300 billion in new financing. The Department of the Treasury, using the Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF), will provide $30 billion in equity to these facilities.
  • Establishment of two facilities to support credit to large employers – the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility (PMCCF) for new bond and loan issuance and the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF) to provide liquidity for outstanding corporate bonds.
  • Establishment of a third facility, the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), to support the flow of credit to consumers and businesses. The TALF will enable the issuance of asset-backed securities (ABS) backed by student loans, auto loans, credit card loans, loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA), and certain other assets.
  • Facilitating the flow of credit to municipalities by expanding the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility (MMLF) to include a wider range of securities, including municipal variable rate demand notes (VRDNs) and bank certificates of deposit.
  • Facilitating the flow of credit to municipalities by expanding the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF) to include high-quality, tax-exempt commercial paper as eligible securities. In addition, the pricing of the facility has been reduced.

Additionally, the Federal Reserve expects to announce soon the establishment of a Main Street Business Lending Program to support lending to eligible small-and-medium-sized businesses, complementing efforts by the SBA.

These actions augment the measures taken by the Federal Reserve over the past week to support the flow of credit to households and businesses. These include:

  • The establishment of the CPFF, the MMLF, and the Primary Dealer Credit Facility;
  • The expansion of central bank liquidity swap lines;
  • Steps to enhance the availability and ease terms for borrowing at the discount window;
  • The elimination of reserve requirements;
  • Guidance encouraging banks to be flexible with customers experiencing financial challenges related to the coronavirus and to utilize their liquidity and capital buffers in doing so;
  • Statements encouraging the use of daylight credit at the Federal Reserve.

In a separate statement released at the same time, the Fed stated:

“The Federal Open Market Committee is taking further actions to support the flow of credit to households and businesses by addressing strains in the markets for Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities. The Federal Reserve will continue to purchase Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning and effective transmission of monetary policy to broader financial conditions. The Committee will include purchases of agency commercial mortgage-backed securities in its agency mortgage-backed security purchases. In addition, the Open Market Desk will continue to offer large-scale overnight and term repurchase agreement operations. The Committee will continue to closely monitor market conditions, and will assess the appropriate pace of its securities purchases at future meetings.”

The Fed also voted unanimously to authorize and direct the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, until instructed otherwise, to execute transactions in the System Open Market Account to undertake open market operations as necessary.

More information is available here.

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