Economy

Text: FOMC Minutes

CNBC.com
Share

Below are the minutes released by the Federal Open Market Committee after its Jan. 27-28 meeting:

Authorization for Foreign Currency Operations

1. The Federal Open Market Committee authorizes and directs the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, for System Open Market Account, to the extent necessary to carry out the Committee's foreign currency directive and express authorizations by the Committee pursuant thereto, and in conformity with such procedural instructions as the Committee may issue from time to time:

A. To purchase and sell the following foreign currencies in the form of cable transfers through spot or forward transactions on the open market at home and abroad, including transactions with the U.S. Treasury, with the U.S. Exchange Stabilization Fund established by Section 10 of the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, with foreign monetary authorities, with the Bank for International Settlements, and with other international financial institutions:

The Federal Reserve headquarters in Washington, DC.

Australian dollars Brazilian reais Canadian dollars Danish kroner euro Japanese yen Korean won Mexican pesos New Zealand dollars Norwegian kroner Pounds sterling Singapore dollars Swedish kronor Swiss francs

B. To hold balances of, and to have outstanding forward contracts to receive or to deliver, the foreign currencies listed in paragraph A above.

C. To draw foreign currencies and to permit foreign banks to draw dollars under the reciprocal currency arrangements listed in paragraph 2 below, provided that drawings by either party to any such arrangement shall be fully liquidated within 12 months after any amount outstanding at that time was first drawn, unless the Committee, because of exceptional circumstances, specifically authorizes a delay.

D. To maintain an overall open position in all foreign currencies not exceeding $25.0 billion. For this purpose, the overall open position in all foreign currencies is defined as the sum (disregarding signs) of net positions in individual currencies, excluding changes in dollar value due to foreign exchange rate movements and interest accruals. The net position in a single foreign currency is defined as holdings of balances in that currency, plus outstanding contracts for future receipt, minus outstanding contracts for future delivery of that currency, i.e., as the sum of these elements with due regard to sign.

2. The Federal Open Market Committee directs the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to maintain reciprocal currency arrangements ("swap" arrangements) for the System Open Market Account for periods up to a maximum of 12 months with the following foreign banks, which are among those designated by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System under Section 214.5 of Regulation N, Relations with Foreign Banks and Bankers, and with the approval of the Committee to renew such arrangements on maturity:

Any changes in the terms of existing swap arrangements, and the proposed terms of any new arrangements that may be authorized, shall be referred for review and approval to the Committee.

3. All transactions in foreign currencies undertaken under paragraph 1.A. above shall, unless otherwise expressly authorized by the Committee, be at prevailing market rates. For the purpose of providing an investment return on System holdings of foreign currencies or for the purpose of adjusting interest rates paid or received in connection with swap drawings, transactions with foreign central banks may be undertaken at non-market exchange rates.

4. It shall be the normal practice to arrange with foreign central banks for the coordination of foreign currency transactions. In making operating arrangements with foreign central banks on System holdings of foreign currencies, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shall not commit itself to maintain any specific balance, unless authorized by the Federal Open Market Committee. Any agreements or understandings concerning the administration of the accounts maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York with the foreign banks designated by the Board of Governors under Section 214.5 of Regulation N shall be referred for review and approval to the Committee.

5. Foreign currency holdings shall be invested to ensure that adequate liquidity is maintained to meet anticipated needs and so that each currency portfolio shall generally have an average duration of no more than 18 months (calculated as Macaulay duration). Such investments may include buying or selling outright obligations of, or fully guaranteed as to principal and interest by, a foreign government or agency thereof; buying such securities under agreements for repurchase of such securities; selling such securities under agreements for the resale of such securities; and holding various time and other deposit accounts at foreign institutions. In addition, when appropriate in connection with arrangements to provide investment facilities for foreign currency holdings, U.S. Government securities may be purchased from foreign central banks under agreements for repurchase of such securities within 30 calendar days.

6. All operations undertaken pursuant to the preceding paragraphs shall be reported promptly to the Foreign Currency Subcommittee and the Committee. The Foreign Currency Subcommittee consists of the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Committee, the Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors, and such other member of the Board as the Chairman may designate (or in the absence of members of the Board serving on the Subcommittee, other Board members designated by the Chairman as alternates, and in the absence of the Vice Chairman of the Committee, the Vice Chairman's alternate). Meetings of the Subcommittee shall be called at the request of any member, or at the request of the Manager, System Open Market Account ("Manager"), for the purposes of reviewing recent or contemplated operations and of consulting with the Manager on other matters relating to the Manager's responsibilities. At the request of any member of the Subcommittee, questions arising from such reviews and consultations shall be referred for determination to the Federal Open Market Committee.

7. The Chairman is authorized:

A. With the approval of the Committee, to enter into any needed agreement or understanding with the Secretary of the Treasury about the division of responsibility for foreign currency operations between the System and the Treasury;

B. To keep the Secretary of the Treasury fully advised concerning System foreign currency operations, and to consult with the Secretary on policy matters relating to foreign currency operations;

C. From time to time, to transmit appropriate reports and information to the National Advisory Council on International Monetary and Financial Policies.

8. Staff officers of the Committee are authorized to transmit pertinent information on System foreign currency operations to appropriate officials of the Treasury Department.

9. All Federal Reserve Banks shall participate in the foreign currency operations for System Account in accordance with paragraph 3G(1) of the Board of Governors' Statement of Procedure with Respect to Foreign Relationships of Federal Reserve Banks dated January 1, 1944.

By unanimous vote, the Foreign Currency Directive was reaffirmed in the form shown below:

Foreign Currency Directive

(Reaffirmed January 27, 2009)

1. System operations in foreign currencies shall generally be directed at countering disorderly market conditions, provided that market exchange rates for the U.S. dollar reflect actions and behavior consistent with IMF Article IV, Section 1.

2. To achieve this end the System shall:

A. Undertake spot and forward purchases and sales of foreign exchange.

B. Maintain reciprocal currency ("swap") arrangements with selected foreign central banks.

C. Cooperate in other respects with central banks of other countries and with international monetary institutions.

3. Transactions may also be undertaken:

A. To adjust System balances in light of probable future needs for currencies.

B. To provide means for meeting System and Treasury commitments in particular currencies, and to facilitate operations of the Exchange Stabilization Fund.

C. For such other purposes as may be expressly authorized by the Committee.

4. System foreign currency operations shall be conducted:

A. In close and continuous consultation and cooperation with the United States Treasury;

B. In cooperation, as appropriate, with foreign monetary authorities; and

C. In a manner consistent with the obligations of the United States in the International Monetary Fund regarding exchange arrangements under IMF Article IV.

By unanimous vote, the Committee approved the Procedural Instructions with Respect to Foreign Currency Operations, with the addition of the clarifying phrase "unless otherwise directed by the Committee" in the first sentence:

Procedural Instructions with Respect to Foreign Currency Operations

(Amended January 27, 2009)

In conducting operations pursuant to the authorization and direction of the Federal Open Market Committee as set forth in the Authorization for Foreign Currency Operations and the Foreign Currency Directive, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, through the Manager, System Open Market Account ("Manager"), shall be guided by the following procedural understandings with respect to consultations and clearances with the Committee, the Foreign Currency Subcommittee, and the Chairman of the Committee, unless otherwise directed by the Committee. All operations undertaken pursuant to such clearances shall be reported promptly to the Committee.

1. The Manager shall clear with the Subcommittee (or with the Chairman, if the Chairman believes that consultation with the Subcommittee is not feasible in the time available):

A. Any operation that would result in a change in the System's overall open position in foreign currencies exceeding $300 million on any day or $600 million since the most recent regular meeting of the Committee.

B. Any operation that would result in a change on any day in the System's net position in a single foreign currency exceeding $150 million, or $300 million when the operation is associated with repayment of swap drawings.

C. Any operation that might generate a substantial volume of trading in a particular currency by the System, even though the change in the System's net position in that currency might be less than the limits specified in 1.B.

D. Any swap drawing proposed by a foreign bank not exceeding the larger of (i) $200 million or (ii) 15 percent of the size of the swap arrangement.

2. The Manager shall clear with the Committee (or with the Subcommittee, if the Subcommittee believes that consultation with the full Committee is not feasible in the time available, or with the Chairman, if the Chairman believes that consultation with the Subcommittee is not feasible in the time available):

A. Any operation that would result in a change in the System's overall open position in foreign currencies exceeding $1.5 billion since the most recent regular meeting of the Committee.

B. Any swap drawing proposed by a foreign bank exceeding the larger of (i) $200 million or (ii) 15 percent of the size of the swap arrangement.

3. The Manager shall also consult with the Subcommittee or the Chairman about proposed swap drawings by the System and about any operations that are not of a routine character.

By unanimous vote, the Committee approved several amendments to the Authorization for Domestic Open Market Operations (shown below). The amendments consolidate language authorizing repurchase agreements and reverse repurchase agreements into one paragraph, add a paragraph authorizing the use of agents to execute transactions in certain mortgage-backed securities (MBS), and add language to the final paragraph that reflects the Committee's current focus on using the composition and size of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet as instruments of monetary policy. The final paragraph now specifies that decisions to make material changes in the composition and size of the portfolio of assets held in the System Open Market Account during the period between meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee will be made in the same manner as decisions to change the intended level of the federal funds rate during the intermeeting period:

Authorization for Domestic Open Market Operations

(Amended January 27, 2009)

1. The Federal Open Market Committee authorizes and directs the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, to the extent necessary to carry out the most recent domestic policy directive adopted at a meeting of the Committee:

A. To buy or sell U.S. Government securities, including securities of the Federal Financing Bank, and securities that are direct obligations of, or fully guaranteed as to principal and interest by, any agency of the United States in the open market, from or to securities dealers and foreign and international accounts maintained at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, on a cash, regular, or deferred delivery basis, for the System Open Market Account at market prices, and, for such Account, to exchange maturing U.S. Government and Federal agency securities with the Treasury or the individual agencies or to allow them to mature without replacement;

B. To buy or sell in the open market U.S. Government securities, and securities that are direct obligations of, or fully guaranteed as to principal and interest by, any agency of the United States, for the System Open Market Account under agreements to resell or repurchase such securities or obligations (including such transactions as are commonly referred to as repo and reverse repo transactions) in 65 business days or less, at rates that, unless otherwise expressly authorized by the Committee, shall be determined by competitive bidding, after applying reasonable limitations on the volume of agreements with individual counterparties.

2. In order to ensure the effective conduct of open market operations, the Federal Open Market Committee authorizes the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to use agents in agency MBS-related transactions.

3. In order to ensure the effective conduct of open market operations, the Federal Open Market Committee authorizes the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to lend on an overnight basis U.S. Government securities held in the System Open Market Account to dealers at rates that shall be determined by competitive bidding. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York shall set a minimum lending fee consistent with the objectives of the program and apply reasonable limitations on the total amount of a specific issue that may be auctioned and on the amount of securities that each dealer may borrow. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York may reject bids which could facilitate a dealer's ability to control a single issue as determined solely by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

4. In order to ensure the effective conduct of open market operations, while assisting in the provision of short-term investments for foreign and international accounts maintained at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and accounts maintained at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as fiscal agent of the United States pursuant to Section 15 of the Federal Reserve Act, the Federal Open Market Committee authorizes and directs the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (a) for System Open Market Account, to sell U.S. Government securities to such accounts on the bases set forth in paragraph 1.A under agreements providing for the resale by such accounts of those securities in 65 business days or less on terms comparable to those available on such transactions in the market; and (b) for New York Bank account, when appropriate, to undertake with dealers, subject to the conditions imposed on purchases and sales of securities in paragraph l.B, repurchase agreements in U.S. Government and agency securities, and to arrange corresponding sale and repurchase agreements between its own account and such foreign, international, and fiscal agency accounts maintained at the Bank. Transactions undertaken with such accounts under the provisions of this paragraph may provide for a service fee when appropriate.

5. In the execution of the Committee's decision regarding policy during any intermeeting period, the Committee authorizes and directs the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, upon the instruction of the Chairman of the Committee, to adjust somewhat in exceptional circumstances the degree of pressure on reserve positions and hence the intended federal funds rate and to take actions that result in material changes in the composition and size of the assets in the System Open Market Account other than those anticipated by the Committee at its most recent meeting. Any such adjustment shall be made in the context of the Committee's discussion and decision at its most recent meeting and the Committee's long-run objectives for price stability and sustainable economic growth, and shall be based on economic, financial, and monetary developments during the intermeeting period. Consistent with Committee practice, the Chairman, if feasible, will consult with the Committee before making any adjustment.

In light of its program to purchase large quantities of agency debt and mortgage-backed securities, the Committee voted to suspend temporarily the Guidelines for the Conduct of System Operations in Federal Agency Issues (last amended January 28, 2003). Mr. Lacker dissented, stating that he views targeted purchases of agency debt and mortgage-backed securities as distorting credit markets and would prefer that the Desk instead purchase Treasury securities.

The remainder of the Committee's meeting was conducted as a joint meeting with the Board of Governors in order to facilitate policy discussion of developments with regard to the System's liquidity facilities and balance sheet during the intermeeting period and to consider the need for changes in the System's approach to using those tools.

Market Developments and Open Market Operations

The Manager of the System Open Market Account reported on recent developments in domestic and foreign financial markets. The Manager also reported on System open market operations in Treasury securities and in agency debt and mortgage-backed securities during the period since the Committee's December 15-16 meeting. By unanimous vote, the Committee ratified these transactions. There were no open market operations in foreign currencies for the System's account during the period since the Committee's December 15-16 meeting.

Meeting participants discussed the potential benefits of conducting open market purchases of a substantial quantity of longer-term Treasury securities for the System Open Market Account. Participants generally agreed that purchasing such securities could be a useful adjunct to other monetary policy tools in some circumstances. One participant preferred to begin purchasing Treasury securities immediately, as a way to increase the monetary base, in lieu of expanding programs that aim to support particular segments of the credit markets. Other participants were prepared to purchase longer-term Treasury securities if evolving circumstances were to indicate that such transactions would be particularly effective in improving conditions in private credit markets. However, they judged that purchases of longer-term Treasury securities would only modestly improve conditions in private credit markets at present, and that completing already-announced plans to purchase large quantities of agency debt and mortgage-backed securities and to support certain asset-backed securities markets was, in current circumstances, likely to be a more effective way to employ the Federal Reserve balance sheet to support credit flows to, and spending by, households and businesses.

System Liquidity Programs and Balance Sheet

Staff reported on developments in System liquidity programs and on changes in the System's balance sheet since the Committee's December 15-16 meeting. As of January 26, the System's total assets and liabilities stood at just under $2 trillion, about $300 billion less than on December 17, 2008. The drop, which resulted primarily from a decline in foreign central bank drawings on reciprocal currency arrangements and a reduction in issuers' sales of commercial paper to the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF), seemed to reflect some improvement in the functioning of global interbank markets and the commercial paper market after the year-end.

Most participants interpreted the evidence as indicating that credit markets still were not working well, and that the Federal Reserve's lending programs, asset purchases, and currency swaps were providing much-needed support to economic activity by reducing dislocations in financial markets, lowering the cost of credit, and facilitating the flow of credit to businesses and households. Several indicated that they expected the soon-to-be-implemented Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) to improve liquidity and reduce disruptions in the markets for securities backed by student loans, credit card receivables, auto loans, and small business loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration; they also noted that it might become necessary to enhance or expand the TALF or other programs. However, in the view of one participant, financial markets--including those for asset-backed securities--were working reasonably well, given the current high level of pessimism and uncertainty about economic prospects and asset values, and the System's lending and asset-purchase programs were resulting in undesirable distortions in the allocation of credit. Others noted that such programs could have undesirable consequences if expanded too far or continued too long. Many participants agreed that it would be desirable for the System to develop additional measures of the effects of its programs, and they encouraged additional research on analytical frameworks that could inform Federal Reserve policy actions with respect to the size and composition of its balance sheet.

Several meeting participants noted that the expansion of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet along with continued growth of the money supply could help stabilize longer-run inflation expectations in the face of increasing economic slack and very low inflation in coming quarters. Over a longer horizon, however, the Federal Reserve will need to scale back its liquidity programs and the size of its balance sheet as the economy recovers, to avoid the risk of an unwanted increase in expected inflation and a buildup of inflation pressures. Participants observed that many of the Federal Reserve's liquidity programs are priced so that they will become unattractive to borrowers as conditions in financial markets improve; these programs will shrink automatically. In other cases, the Federal Reserve eventually may have to take a more active role in scaling back programs by adjusting their terms and conditions. More generally, the Federal Reserve may need to develop additional tools to manage the size of its balance sheet and the level of the federal funds rate as the economy recovers. As of late January, however, with financial conditions strained and the economic outlook weak, most participants agreed that the Committee should continue to focus on supporting the functioning of financial markets and stimulating the economy through purchases of agency debt and mortgage-backed securities and other measures--including the implementation of the TALF--that will keep the size of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet at a high level for some time.