The Fed managed to reduce its balance sheet by $45 billion last month. The majority of this was in Treasuries of 1-5 year maturities with a reduction of $55B. The next biggest reduction was in mortgage-backed securities MBS totaling $20 billion. This fell short of the target of $35 billion. In fact, the Fed has still never reached its MBS target since balance sheet reduction began.
Meanwhile, the central bank continues to add bank bailout loans to its balance sheet.
We tend to focus a lot on the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policy, while the central bank’s balance sheet stays in the background. But the balance sheet arguably has more impact on the economy over the long run.
Since the Fed began hiking interest rates in March 2022, it has also shrunk the balance sheet. But balance sheet reduction hasn’t been aggressive. In fact, the decline in the balance sheet since the pandemic is like a drop of water in the ocean compared to the massive expansion we’ve seen since 2008.
The Fed is still bailing out banks.
The Bank Term Funding Program (BTFP) reached a new all-time high in April, suggesting that the banking crisis has not yet passed.
And while the aggregate balance sheet looks to be shrinking, the detailed data shows it is more complex than that.
By now it should be common knowledge that the Fed has blown up its balance sheet rather quickly to combat the current banking crisis. As the chart below illustrates, the Fed added a gargantuan sum to its balance sheet in March, netting an increase of $324B.
The Federal Reserve came close but still fell short of its $95 billion per month balance sheet reduction target through the last full week in February. This means the Fed has fallen short in 8 of the last 9 months.
And with rising interest rates coupled with even this modest balance sheet reduction, the Fed is also bleeding money.
The Fed has a targeted balance sheet reduction of $95B a month. The Fed has failed to meet its target in 7 of the last 8 months with only an $81B reduction in January.
The Fed fell woefully short of meeting their $35B MBS target, seeing only $16.7B (less than 50% of the target). The Treasury target was met.
In the latest month, the Fed made up for their recent shortfall with a big balance sheet reduction of $139B, exceeding their target by 50%! Despite the larger-than-expected reduction, the Fed still missed its target on Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS).
The Fed is supposed to be reducing the balance sheet by $95B a month. This is up from $47.5B before September. As the chart below shows, the Fed has only succeeded in meeting or exceeding its goal a single time (August) in 6 months.
In the latest month, the Fed came up 25% short with a taper of only $72B. Even when removing the $10B increase of “Other”, which is a range of other instruments not related to MBS or Treasury, the Fed was still over $12B short of target.