The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet reached a record $4 trillion, as the central bank pushed on with its unprecedented asset-purchase program.
The Fed’s holdings rose $14.1 billion to $4.01 trillion in the past week, the Fed said today in a statement in Washington. Policy makers said yesterday they will slow monthly purchases of Treasuries and mortgage bonds to $75 billion in January, the first cut to the $85 billion pace they maintained for a year.
“We’re going to be living with a big Fed balance sheet for a long time,” said Josh Feinman, the New York-based global chief economist for Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management, which oversees $1.2 trillion, and a former Fed senior economist. “They’re still missing their dual mandate on both sides and that would call for easy monetary policy with unemployment too high and inflation too low.”
Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has raised assets from $2.82 trillion before the third round of quantitative easing began in September 2012 and quadrupled them since 2008 to attack unemployment after the 2008-2009 recession. He said yesterday the Fed may take “similar moderate steps” at each meeting to slow QE, which also carries potential risks.
“As the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve gets large, managing that balance sheet, exiting from that balance sheet become more difficult,” Bernanke said at his press conference. “There are concerns about effects on asset prices, although I would have to say that’s another thing that future monetary economists will want to be looking at very carefully.”
The assets exceed the U.S. government’s budget and are bigger than the gross domestic product of Germany, which has the world’s third-largest economy. Still, the European Central Bank, Bank of Japan and Bank of England hold more assets relative to the size of their economies, third-quarter data compiled by Haver Analytics show.
Policy makers said yesterday even expanding the balance sheet at a slower pace would keep supporting the labor market.
“The committee’s sizable and still-increasing holdings of longer-term securities should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative, which in turn should promote a stronger economic recovery,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in its policy statement.