On one recent morning, trader one was Tiffany Wilding, 26. While she reviewed the stream of offers and then the prices finally accepted by the algorithm, trader two, Blake Gwinn, 29, double-checked her decisions and trader three, James White, 29, made a duplicate of everything in case the computers crashed.
All the while, Mr. Frost stood behind his colleagues, ready to intervene — and even cancel the Fed’s purchases — at any sign of trouble.
They have their work cut out, trying to outwit the 18 investment firms that deal directly with the Fed. These so-called primary dealers — the Goldmans and Morgans of the world — employ some of the sharpest minds on Wall Street.
Mr. Frost — a Rutgers math grad who has worked at the Fed for 12 years, lives in the Borough Hall area of Brooklyn and takes the subway each day to work — is fairly well known within the dealer community. He and his team talk to the big banks most days.
The job carries great responsibility and is prominent within the Fed. But outside the Fed he and his colleagues are still seen more as staid central bankers doing a job, bankers say, not necessarily Wall Street hotshots likely to be snapped up by the likes of Goldman Sachs.
When devising the program, Mr. Frost and his team decided to focus most on buying Treasury notes with an average maturity of five to six years. That is because the yields on these notes have the biggest impact on interest rates for mortgage holders, consumers and companies issuing debt, and on banks’ decisions to lend to businesses. Over the weeks and months of the program, his purchases should drive up the prices of these securities — because they will be in greater demand — and consequently push down their yields.
The trouble is, though yields fell sharply between August and November as the markets anticipated the new program, they have risen since it was formally announced in November, leaving many in the markets puzzled about the value of the Fed’s bond-buying program.
Mr. Frost, and his boss, Brian P. Sack, insist the program has succeeded. Mr. Sack, 40, joined the Fed 18 months ago to run the entire markets group. He has a Ph.D. from M.I.T. and worked most recently for a Washington consulting firm. In 2004, he wrote a paper with Ben S. Bernanke, the future chairman of the Federal Reserve, and another economist about unconventional measures for stimulating the economy in extraordinary times — just like large-scale purchases of Treasuries.
“We didn’t know then that the Fed would be putting it to the test,” he said.
He said the Obama administration’s $858 billion tax compromise with Congressional Republicans in December complicated the macroeconomic picture.
But the biggest reason for the rise in interest rates was probably that the economy was, at last, growing faster. And that’s good news.
“Rates have risen for the reasons we were hoping for: investors are more optimistic about the recovery,” said Mr. Sack. “It is a good sign.”