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The Fed Will Restart QE In November: This Is How It Will Do It


One of the reasons for the sharply hawkish response to yesterday’s FOMC meeting – one which saw both the dollar and yields spike – is that as we pointed out yesterday morning, in the hours ahead of Powell’s press conference, Wall Street consensus quickly shifted with many expecting the Fed to announce some form of permanent repo facility or restart of POMO (or QE for those who call a spade a spade) to push reserves back to a level where the funding market is stable. This, as we showed with the following chart, would require some $400 billion in new reserves for the FF-IOER spread to normalize.

To the disappointment of many, Powell did not do that, and instead, the FOMC realigned both interest on excess reserves (IOER) and the reverse repo (RRP) rate lower by 5bp, resulting in 30bp cuts to both rates. Powell also noted during his press conference that the Fed would use temporary open market operations (OMOs) “for the foreseeable future” to address pressures in funding markets.

However, and the reason why stocks shot up just before 3pm ET, is that that’s when Powell added that “it’s possible that we’ll need to resume the organic growth of the balance sheet, earlier than we thought. … We’ll be looking at this carefully in coming days and taking it up at the next meeting” in late October. Said otherwise, the Fed may not have announcer QE4 yesterday, but it will likely announce it in the very near future.

Sure enough, as Goldman wrote in its FOMC post-mortem, “we took this as a fairly strong hint and now expect the Fed to resume trend growth of its balance sheet in November with permanent OMOs. It is possible that the FOMC will take that opportunity to also reach a final decision on possibly shortening the maturity composition of its purchases, which it discussed at its May meeting.”

So what will the Fed’s restart of QE POMO (some analysts, such as Morgan Stanley’s Matt Hornbach are very sensitive not to call the return of POMO as QE even though both are effectively the monetization of US Treasurys and the US budget deficit) look like?

In the chart below, Goldman summarizes its projections of the Fed’s future gross Treasury purchases. The blue bars show reinvestment of maturing UST, which occur via add-on Treasury auctions. The red bars show reinvestment of maturing MBS, which occur via the secondary market.

The grey bars are where things get fun as they show permanent OMOs to support trend growth of the Fed’s balance sheet, which will occur via intervention of the Fed’s markets desk in the secondary market.

Here, similar to Bank of America, Goldman assumes a roughly $15bn/month rate of permanent OMOs, enough to support trend growth of the balance sheet plus some additional padding over the first two years to increase the size of thebalance sheet by $150bn, restoring the reserve buffer and eliminating the current need for temporary OMOs.

That strategy would result in balance sheet growth of roughly $180bn/year and net UST purchases by the Fed (the sum of the red and grey bars) of roughly $375bn/year over the next couple of years.

And so, in just two months QE… pardon the Fed’s open market purchases of Treasurys, will return after a 5 years hiatus. Just don’t call it QE, whatever you do.