Fed Set for Record $1.1 Trillion in Friday Market Support as Investors Look to Central Banks While Lawmakers Dither

The Fed will buy more than $100 billion in bonds and mortgages Friday, while adding a further $1 trillion in overnight repos, as global central banks continue to support beaten-down markets.
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The Federal Reserve is on pace to pump what could be a record high $1.1 trillion in the U.S. financial system Friday as it continues to provide liquidity to markets at home, and around the world, as the cornavirus pandemic threatens to trigger a global recession.

The Fed is slated to buy around $107 billion in government bonds and mortgage backed securities Friday as part of the $700 billion QE revival it unveiled last week after cutting interest rates to a record low range of between 0% and 0.25%. It's also providing two overnight repo operations that will inject a further $1 trillion in cash -- in exchange for similar amounts in collateral -- to ensure banks continue to lend to one another during the ongoing crisis in global finance and what is likely to be a pending U.S. recession. 

In fact, the Fed also said Friday that it would run the $1 trillion overnight repo operation on a daily basis until at least the end of the month. 

"We are encouraged by the Fed's willingness genuinely to do whatever it takes to keep markets functioning, and to do it quickly," said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics. "But we have to repeat that the Fed cannot prevent an economic catastrophe in the second quarter, and perhaps beyond, just by keeping markets running smoothly."

Benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields, which had been languishing well above the 1.1% mark for most of this week, rallied to 0.97% Friday while the U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six global currencies, slipped 0.63% to 102.13. 

The Fed's aggressive action this week, which was followed by rate cuts and bond purchase plans from the Bank of England and a new, $820 billion "pandemic quantitative easing" program from the European Central Bank, has provided at least some comfort to global financial markets, but calls for even more radical action from fiscal policymakers continues to grow.

"Congress needs to act very quickly, and we remain concerned that even the $1.3 trillion package now under discussion will not be enough," he added. "It might take some truly astonishing data to shock lawmakers into the sort of action needed seriously to reduce the pain," Shepherdson warned, noting that next week's jobless claims could see as many as 2 million Americans seeking unemployment benefits, a figure that would mark the biggest increase on record. 

Senate lawmakers are debating competing plans to support the domestic economy, which is very likely to contract over the next two quarters as state and federal governments limit movement and factories and business reduce activity in the face of evaporating consumer demand. 

The two aid packages, from each side of the aisle, look to provide near-term support for businesses, in the form of loan guarantees, and could include direct "helicopter money" checks of around $1,200 to the vast majority of American citizens in the coming weeks.

"The coronavirus could lead to substantial layoffs, unemployment and income losses for households," said ING's Rob Carnell. "They aren't likely to be in the market for a new car or flat-screen TV. But they still need to buy food, pay rent, utilities, medical bills." 

"With estimates of up to 80% of populations getting the coronavirus on top of that, this lays the setting for utter global collapse if somehow, things aren't kept ticking along," he added. "US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is urging Congress to pass a $1 trillion stimulus package by Monday. That's extremely helpful. But it may still be way too little."

Until then, and perhaps for several weeks after, markets will likely have to rely on the Fed, and the trillions its providing in support to everything from commercial paper markets to government bonds to foreign currency trading, to ensure that markets don't extend their recent coronavirus meltdown.