Over the past several months, Mike Maharrey and I have posted numerous articles that conclude the same way… the Fed is bluffing and when something breaks, they will fold. On every podcast, Mike has walked through exactly why this is inevitable. Back in September, I laid out the math that showed why the Fed would fold and laid out a series of risks that may cause such an event. One of those risks was “What if the financial markets freeze because there is a credit event somewhere?”.
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.
The Fed has Missed the Balance Sheet Mortgage Back Security Reduction Target Reduction Every Single Month
The Fed has a targeted balance sheet reduction of $95B a month. After reaching and exceeding this target last month, the Fed is back to undershooting.
This should not come as a surprise given the turmoil in the bond market this year and the lack of liquidity.
The Fed has talked a big game lately. Many people (including me) assumed the Fed would fold a long time ago. There is a very good reason — the Fed will crush the economy and the US Treasury with higher interest rates.
In reality, the Fed is holding a losing hand and trying to bluff its way to victory.
Is the Federal Reserve worried about the tanking mortgage and housing market? If their holdings of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) are any indication, the answer is, yes.
The Fed has finally started shrinking its overall balance sheet as promised, but they are not shedding MBS according to plan.
According to the seasonally adjusted data, M2 increased by $23B in May. Except for the contraction last month (the first contraction in 12 years), it was the smallest monthly increase in M2 since the start of COVID.
After a big miss on the Powell/Brainard nominations in November, the price analysis has been fairly accurate. Identifying the initial breakout above $1800, mentioning that $1900 was fragile support, and last month concluding that gold had found a bottom around $1800.
For the past month, gold has been consolidating within a tight range around $1850. The data suggests the next move is most likely up. Lots of indicators have bottomed, which leaves little downside remaining. The market has also priced in an extremely aggressive Fed and held up very well over that time.
Despite rising through the month, the Fed balance ended up shrinking slightly by $25 billion in May, even as it slightly increased its Treasury holdings.
This was the first monthly decline in the balance sheet since $220B of “Other” rolled off in July 2020. In that case, “Other” were repurchase agreements with foreign entities to provide liquidity and alleviate stress in the global markets.
For the second month in a row, the Fed held true to its word and kept the balance sheet relatively flat. In aggregate, the balance sheet expanded by only $2B, though it did reach an all-time high mid-month. The drop to close out the month came as a result of $15B in mortgage-backed securities rolling off in the latest week.