Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mopping up 

Treasury anticipates that the balance in the Treasury's Supplementary Financing Account will increase from its current level of $5 billion to $200 billion. This will restore the SFP back to the level maintained between February and September 2009.

This action will be completed over the next two months in the form of eight $25 billion, 56-day SFP bills. Starting tomorrow, SFP auctions will be held each Wednesday...

The purpose of this will be to provide a temporary draining of excess reserves from banks, replacing them with these relatively short notes. The Treasury doesn't keep the cash; it hoards it in the Fed's balance sheet (see item 33 here) until it the paper matures, then it repays it. At last report the banks held $1,119 billion in excess reserves, so this is not that big an adjustment. But if interest rates don't move very much over the next two months from tighter credit, it will be a sign that banks are not seeing great lending opportunities outside of Treasuries. And it will give us some indicator of what happens when the Fed starts issuing its own paper instead of needing Treasury's help.

(h/t: Donald Marron, who reminds us that the Treasury can only do this while it has room under the debt limit.)

Labels: ,