The Federal Reserve is once again buying vast amounts of bonds to calm stress in financial markets. But this isn’t a return to crisis-era efforts to save the economy. At least not yet.
The Fed announced on Friday it will launch a new program next week that will gobble up $60 billion of Treasury bills per month. The purchases will further boost the size of its already-massive $4 trillion balance sheet.
Given the slowing American economy, the actions are reminiscent of the bond buying programs known as quantitative easing. The Fed resorted to QE, and eventually QE2 and QE3, to keep borrowing costs ultra-cheap once it ran out of room to cut interest rates in 2008.
Yet central bank officials and economists stress today’s moves have an entirely different purpose. Rather than boosting sluggish growth, the Fed is buying bonds to fix significant problems that have emerged in the plumbing of the capital markets.