Fed to Slow Pace of Treasury Buying Again Under Its QE Program

(Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve further dialed back the pace at which it plans to buy Treasuries under its unlimited quantitative easing program even as it announced an additional swath of support measures for smaller businesses as well as local and state governments.

The U.S. central bank, which has been aggressively purchasing Treasuries in a bid to offset the economic and market fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, on Thursday said that it would reduce the daily pace of buying to around $30 billion from $50 billion, starting April 13. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York outlined its Treasury-buying plans for the coming week on its website.

“It’s a healthy and encouraging sign that the Fed can pull back on its purchases,” said Peter Tchir, head of macro strategy at Academy Securities. “We don’t want the Fed’s buying overwhelming things and there’s also enough investors with concerns about that outlook that are willing to purchase Treasuries.”

The current round of Treasury purchase operations began March 13 and peaked in size at $75 billion per day from March 19 to April 1. It has made purchases on Monday through Thursday this week, but will not be buying on April 10 because the Treasury market will be closed for a holiday.

There will be at least four operations a day covering either nominal Treasuries or inflation-protected securities, according to the schedule.

“We’re substantially better than where we were three weeks ago in the Treasury market,” said Tony Farren, a managing director at broker-dealer Mischler Financial Group in Stamford, Connecticut. “Fed policy makers have learned from some mistakes in the 2008-2009 financial crisis in that when they give medicine to a patient and the patient starts to recover, they should take some of the medicine back.”

Treasury futures ease from near session highs after the Fed’s announcement on bond buying, although they remained up on the day. The market for cash Treasuries closed early ahead of the Friday holiday.

Earlier on Thursday, the Fed announced another series of sweeping steps to provide as much as $2.3 trillion in additional aid during the coronavirus pandemic, including starting programs to aid small- and mid-sized businesses as well as state and local governments.

“Our country’s highest priority must be to address this public health crisis, providing care for the ill and limiting the further spread of the virus,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in a statement accompanying that announcement. “The Fed’s role is to provide as much relief and stability as we can during this period of constrained economic activity.”

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