Home Alert Fed Alert: Overnight Reverse Repo Usage Soars Above Covid Crisis Highs

Fed Alert: Overnight Reverse Repo Usage Soars Above Covid Crisis Highs

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In today’s FOMC Minutes there was a brief section that received little focus amid the broader analysis of the Fed’s tapering, inflation language, yet which could be far more important in coming weeks in light of the violent move higher in overnight reverse repo usage.

This is what the Fed said in its discussion of money market rates and the Fed’s balance sheet:

Reserve balances increased further this intermeeting period to a record level of $3.9 trillion. The effective federal funds rate was steady at 7 basis points. However, amid ongoing strong demand for safe short-term investments and reduced Treasury bill supply, the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) stood at 1 basis point throughout the period. The overnight reverse repurchase agreement (ON RRP) facility continued to effectively support policy implementation, and take-up peaked at more than $100 billion. A modest amount of trading in overnight repurchase agreement (repo) markets occurred at negative rates, although this development appeared to largely reflect technical factors. The SOMA manager noted that downward pressure on overnight rates in coming months could result in conditions that warrant consideration of a modest adjustment to administered rates and could ultimately lead to a greater share of Federal Reserve balance sheet expansion being channeled into ON RRP and other Federal Reserve liabilities. Although few survey respondents expected an adjustment to administered rates at the current meeting, more than half expected an adjustment by the end of the June  FOMC meeting.

This language confirms what we said last night when we discussed the spike in overnight reverse repo usage as part of the coming QE endgame…

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… and where we quoted from former Fed staffer Zoltan Pozsar, who warned that “The heavy use of the o/n RRP facility tells us that foreign banks too are now chock-full of reserves.”

We concluded with the following bottom line: “keep a close eye on the daily reverse repo facility usage: at the rate it is rising it may soon surpass its all time high of $475BN reached at the end of 2015. At that moment the Fed will have no choice but to start the long overdue “tapering talk.”

And just in case there was confusion, we elaborated that “it also means that every tick higher in RRP usage means we are that much closer to the next, and far more violent, taper tantrum.

Which is why the biggest news of the day may not be the crash in cryptos or even the Fed Minutes, but what the Fed published at 1:15pm ET when it revealed that in the latest overnight repo, 43 counterparties parked reserves worth $294 billion with the Fed, a number which not only surpassed the March 2020 covid crisis highs, but was the highest since 2017!

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As Pozsar noted on Monday, “use of the facility has never been this high outside of quarter-end turns, and the fact that the use of the facility is this high on a sunny day mid-quarter means that banks dont have the balance sheet to warehouse any more reserves at current spread levels.

Translation: the Fed is taking Treasurys out of the market through QE purchases and putting them right back in via the RRP

Not only does this impair the proper functioning of the repo market which is rapidly running out of collateral and is forced to unwind what it just got from the Fed back to the Fed, it also means that while the Fed still has plenty of assets to monetize courtesy of the Treasury’s breakneck debt issuance spree, the banks that end up holding the resulting excess reserves are running out of space and are forced to park these brand new reserves right back with the Fed in the form of the O/N RRP.

In short: the US financial system is starting to groan at every incremental new reserve created by the Fed’s QE… and considering that there is at least $1 trillion more in QE to go, even with tapering, things could turn ugly soon.

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This, much more than any flip-flopping commentary from the Fed, confirms that we are rapidly approaching a critical moment when the Fed will no longer be bale to conduct $120BN in QE every month, as sooner or later someone will figure out that the Fed buying up hundreds of billions in securities only to turn around the then repo out the resulting reserves each and every day, amounts to outright debt monetization with potentially calamitous consequences for yields and the US dollar.