This is a highly educative piece on the Federal Reserve’s Balance sheet. What I find interesting is the fact how the Fed wants to tighten liquidity once the economy starts getting better:
Although, in principle, the ability to pay interest on reserves should be sufficient to allow the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and control money growth, this approach is likely to be more effective if combined with steps to reduce excess reserves. I will mention three options for achieving such an outcome.
First, the Federal Reserve could drain bank reserves and reduce the excess liquidity at other institutions by arranging large-scale reverse repurchase agreements (reverse repos) with financial market participants, including banks, the GSEs, and other institutions. Reverse repos, which are a traditional and well-understood tool of monetary policy implementation, involve the sale by the Federal Reserve of securities from its portfolio with an agreement to buy the securities back at a slightly higher price at a later date. Reverse repos drain reserves as purchasers transfer cash from banks to the Fed. Second, using the authority the Congress gave us to pay interest on banks’ balances at the Federal Reserve, we can offer term deposits to banks, roughly analogous to the certificates of deposit that banks offer to their customers. Bank funds held in term deposits at the Federal Reserve would not be available to be supplied to the federal funds market. Third, the Federal Reserve could reduce reserves by selling a portion of its holdings of long-term securities in the open market. Each of these policy options would help to raise short-term interest rates and limit the growth of broad measures of money and credit, thereby tightening monetary policy.
Overall, the Federal Reserve has a wide range of tools for tightening monetary policy when the economic outlook requires us to do so. We will calibrate the timing and pace of any future tightening, together with the mix of tools, to best foster our dual objectives of maximum employment and price stability.
Yesterday the “Chef” of the Fed, Ben Bernanke, published another highly informative piece about the state of money flow, liquidity, fear of inflation and general insights how he handled and is still handling the current economic crisis. It will be interesting to see if Obama will try to use the Fed to pay for his HealthCare idea and other US government expenditures. Ben Bernanke is still resisting this push as he is also resiting the push of some Senators to audit the Fed.
The Congress, however, purposefully–and for good reason–excluded from the scope of potential GAO reviews some highly sensitive areas, notably monetary policy deliberations and operations, including open market and discount window operations. In doing so, the Congress carefully balanced the need for public accountability with the strong public policy benefits that flow from maintaining an appropriate degree of independence for the central bank in the making and execution of monetary policy. Financial markets, in particular, likely would see a grant of review authority in these areas to the GAO as a serious weakening of monetary policy independence. Because GAO reviews may be initiated at the request of members of Congress, reviews or the threat of reviews in these areas could be seen as efforts to try to influence monetary policy decisions. A perceived loss of monetary policy independence could raise fears about future inflation, leading to higher long-term interest rates and reduced economic and financial stability. We will continue to work with the Congress to provide the information it needs to oversee our activities effectively, yet in a way that does not compromise monetary policy independence.
From my point of view, Ben Bernanke is a very fine man doing a very fine job.