The Fed also announced that it would ratchet up its program for buying Treasury debt into the second quarter of 2020, a program the central bank had tried to wind down as the economy strengthened.
Both announcements came in an unusual Friday news release from the central bank, which followed a video conference among top central bank officials. It reflects how the Fed, under Chair Jerome H. Powell, is trying to adjust its approach to the economy and financial markets in the face of changing — and at times, conflicting — data.
Interest rates jumped after a disruption last month in the short-term lending markets. Banks and financial institutions rely on these markets to ensure they have access to funding. To compensate, the Fed began its own process to give financial institutions enough cash in return for safer assets like government bonds.
The Fed had previously said that the repo operation would last only through Nov. 4, but it will now continue for at least two more months.
Fed officials are trying to help foster more economic growth and have pivoted toward lowering interest rates after hiking them earlier in Trump’s presidency. President Trump has urged the Fed to lower interest rates even more as a means of boosting the economy ahead of next year’s election.
Trump has also pushed for the Fed to resume large purchases of Treasury bonds, a move known as “quantitative easing,” or QE. Despite Trump’s public lashing out at Powell, the chair has said he won’t bow to political pressure. But Friday’s announcement does put the central bank on course to resume expanding its balance sheet.
Earlier this week, Powell said the Fed would “soon announce measures to add to the supply of reserves over time” but that “this is not QE.” Powell did not specify the size of the new asset purchase program. But he said it would not be a rehashing of what the Fed opted for after the recession a decade ago. Still, the Fed has shown that it will adjust its programs based on how the economy performs.
“I want to emphasize that growth of our balance sheet for reserve management purposes should in no way be confused with the large-scale asset purchase programs that we deployed after the financial crisis,” Powell said Tuesday at the National Association for Business Economics meeting in Denver.
As a means of directing more money into the financial system, the central bank went from holding less than $1 trillion in assets in 2007 to $4.5 trillion in 2015. The Fed has slowly trimmed its holdings back under $4 trillion as the economy has improved. But that move has shrunk the level of reserves available to banks.
Wall Street grew wary in September when there did not appear to be enough reserves in the system, and the overnight borrowing rates that banks use to ensure they have enough capital on hand spiked to levels not seen since the Great Recession. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York moved to direct additional reserves into the system for several days.
But some analysts argue the Fed needed a more permanent fix. The U.S. manufacturing sector struggles to get out of a recession, and many economists have been downgrading their economic growth forecasts for next year to below 2 percent.
On Tuesday, Powell said the Fed’s objective was to keep the economy on even, consistent footing.
“I balk at the idea that we’re running the economy hot,” Powell said. “This feels very sustainable.”
Heather Long contributed to this report.