Janet Yellen Continues Moving to Reduce the Federal Reserve’s $4.5 Trillion Balance Sheet

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Any time there is a Federal Reserve meeting investors pay attention. After all, the Federal Open Market Committee is the body inside the Fed which can determine whether or not to raise interest rates. And now, it can determine whether more or less bond buying and selling will be needed outside of its initial plan that was disclosed.

The FOMC maintained its Fed Funds rate in a 1.00% to 1.25% range, and their view is that monetary policy remains accommodative.

The two-day FOMC meeting that ended on November 1 did not really have any great revelations outside of what should have broadly been expected. Economists and investors are pretty convinced at this time that the next rate hike by the FOMC will occur in December.

It also appears that the first portion of the trimming down of the Fed’s $4.5 trillion balance sheet was unofficially underway with a formal start beginning right about now. According to the FOMC formal statement, they noted that the balance sheet normalization program initiated in October 2017 is proceeding.

The Fed is seeing better economic growth than what was telegraphed in the last two meetings, and it noted that the growth was despite two hurricanes. All in all, this view probably should not be viewed as a major upgrade. The Fed is also more or less signaling that it will hike rates once more in 2017.

To prove that Wednesday’s FOMC announcement was not highly eventful, the vote for the moves was 9-0. Usually there is at least one dissenter.

Inflation may be close to the Fed’s 2.0% threshold, but the reality is that the Fed and many of the rest of us have continued to be amazed that the 2.0% to 2.5% threshold just has not been a more steady event.

Investors, economists, workers and the like are almost certain to have a new Federal Reserve Chairman to interpret in 2018. It is expected that President Trump will nominate Fed Governor Jerome Powell but that remains to be seen.

For a full statement on the asset sales to trim that massive $4.5 trillion balance sheet, the implementation note said:

Effective November 2, 2017, the Federal Open Market Committee directs the Desk to undertake open market operations as necessary to maintain the federal funds rate in a target range of 1 to 1‑1/4 percent, including overnight reverse repurchase operations (and reverse repurchase operations with maturities of more than one day when necessary to accommodate weekend, holiday, or similar trading conventions) at an offering rate of 1.00 percent, in amounts limited only by the value of Treasury securities held outright in the System Open Market Account that are available for such operations and by a per-counterparty limit of $30 billion per day.

The Committee directs the Desk to continue rolling over at auction the amount of principal payments from the Federal Reserve’s holdings of Treasury securities maturing during each calendar month that exceeds $6 billion, and to continue reinvesting in agency mortgage-backed securities the amount of principal payments from the Federal Reserve’s holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities received during each calendar month that exceeds $4 billion. Small deviations from these amounts for operational reasons are acceptable.

The Committee also directs the Desk to engage in dollar roll and coupon swap transactions as necessary to facilitate settlement of the Federal Reserve’s agency mortgage-backed securities transactions.

Equities remains in positive territory on Wednesday after the news out of the FOMC. The S&P 500 was up over 5 points above 2,580 and the Dow was up 676 points at 23,443, The NASDAQ Composite was lower by 15 points, but this was still above 6,700. The Treasury yields were 2.37% on the 10-year and 2.86% on the 30-year.