Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fed Balance Sheet Is Shrinking Again

Unnoticed by most, the Fed balance sheet has started to shrink, after its unprecedented increase last year. After having increased from $888 billion in the week to September 10, to $2,247 billion in the week to December 31, it has since fallen 4 straight weeks in a row to $1,990 billion in the week to January 28. And that latter figure was a weekly average, the absolute level on January 28 was $1,911 billion. This reflects mainly a decline in commercial paper holdings, but many other items including "Term Auction Facility", repurchase agreements and "other loans" also declined significantly.

It is not certain just what this mean. It could be just a temporary decline, before a possible coming expansion in Treasury holdings. And the absolute level of reserves is certainly still more than enough to fuel money supply expansion. However, because of the Fed's new rule of paying interest on reserves and because of the weak underlying economy, a far higher level of reserves than before will be required to expand money supply. And so, if the trend continues, it could cut monetary expansion short before it has begun to bid up prices outside of the fixed income markets.

So far though, this new trend has only had an impact of the very narrow M1 aggregate. Broader and more relevant aggregates like M2 and MZM continued to expand in the latest report, though it should be noticed that these numbers lag reserve figures by 9 days, as the latest numbers refer to the week ending January 19.

Again, no clear conclusions can be made at this point about what will happen and the main scenario is still that the Fed will continue to inflate, but if (with emphasis on "if") this decline in the Fed balance sheet continues then it will likely start to affect the broader monetary aggregates too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe this is why gold shares has stopped going upp after doubling in three months?


11:08 AM  
Anonymous Michael Hayes said...

Hi Stefan,

From the statistics you have provided it is very clear that the fed balance sheet is shrinking again which most of us have not noticed. This may also be a reason as Göran said gold prices have stopped increasing. What would be your conclusion if the continue to inflate.

Micheal Hayes

8:07 AM  

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