The U.S. Federal Reserve stepped up its efforts to shore up financial markets on Monday, announcing it will expand asset buying under its “quantitative easing” program and move for the first time into purchasing corporate debt.
The Financial Times said the Fed, which also unveiled a program to support lending to small-and-medium sized businesses, had “upped the ante” after having failed over the past week to reassure markets with a previous expansion of quantitative easing in response to coronavirus crisis.
“We are now in QE infinity, again,” Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, said in a client note.
The Fed had sought to buy “at least” $500 billion in U.S. Treasuries and $200 billion in agency-backed mortgage-backed securities “over coming months.” Under the measures announced on Monday, there are no limits on buying and agency commercial mortgage-backed securities have been added to the QE program.
“While great uncertainty remains, it has become clear that our economy will face severe disruptions,” the Fed said in a news release. “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.”
“Purchases [of corporate debt] will be limited to debt that has already been sold and has a maturity of less than five years. The Fed will also invest in exchange-traded funds that track the sector.”
The move into corporate bonds will include purchases in primary and secondary markets through two new credit facilities. Purchases will be limited to debt that has already been sold and has a maturity of less than five years and the Fed will also invest in exchange-traded funds that track the sector.
“The purchase of corporate debt by the Fed is designed to prevent a deeper and prolonged bust facing an economy that has been placed in suspended animation,” the FT reported. “A highly indebted U.S. corporate sector, fueled by Fed policy objectives since the last crisis, is being stripped of earnings growth and cash flows for an indeterminate period.”
The Fed estimates the new measures will make about $300 billion in new financing available to businesses. In the wake of the coronavirus, the Fed had already slashed interest rates to zero and announced over $1 trillion of liquidity support to money markets.