Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Federal Reserve Now Owns 15 Percent of the U.S. Treasury Market

According to the U.S. Treasury, as of February 29, 2020, there was $16.9 trillion in marketable U.S. Treasury securities outstanding. Of that amount, at the end of February, the Federal Reserve held $2.47 trillion or 14.6 percent – making it, by far, the largest single holder of U.S. Treasuries anywhere in the world.

By this past Friday, the Fed’s ownership of the Treasury market had increased to $3.12 trillion. It had grown by an unprecedented $650 billion in one month’s time. And on March 23, the Fed announced that it would buy unlimited amounts of both Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities “to support smooth market functioning.”

But exactly how can a so-called “free market” function smoothly if the country’s own central bank is cornering the market. Salomon Brothers paid a $290 million fine and came close to getting slapped with criminal charges by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1992 for manipulating prices in the Treasury market. And make no mistake about it, the Fed’s massive purchases are having a demonstrative impact on driving up prices in the Treasury market while driving down yields – meaning the income that determines if senior citizens in America can buy real groceries or have to live on one pot of soup for the week.

At the end of 2007, before the Wall Street crash in 2008, a senior citizen could invest $10,000 in a 10-year Treasury note and get $400 a year in income, or 4 percent. Today, that same $10,000 generates just 0.67 percent or $67. Seniors who were living on their Treasury income have experienced an 83 percent drop in income while food costs and pharmaceutical costs have soared.

If the Fed keeps up this pace of Treasury buying, it will own the entire Treasury market in about 22 months. If you look at the New York Fed’s list of the Treasury securities that are being submitted to it for sale by Wall Street’s trading houses versus the amounts the New York Fed is buying, you will see that Wall Street is puking up Treasuries in something akin to projectile vomiting.

This is clearly another one of those unanticipated consequences of a corporate-controlled Senate that passed the massive tax cut for corporations and the one percent in December 2017 and created a $1 trillion+ deficit as far out as the eye can see with no plan for who was going to buy all of the gargantuan amounts of Treasury debt that had to be issued as a result.

Because yields on Treasury securities have collapsed by 83 percent since the financial crash, investors, including risk-adverse senior citizens, have been driven into the stock market in order to capture the higher dividends paid on stocks. That’s also been great for the richest top 10 percent of Americans who own the vast majority of the stock market.

Read the rest here.

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