The Federal Reserve won’t reveal how much money it’s spending to buy mortgage-backed securities, the Fed said Monday.
But it has long maintained that the money it gives banks is designed to provide relief from a spike in mortgage rates.
The Federal Reserve’s central bank’s annual statement says it provides an assessment of the effects of quantitative easing, which it defines as a program to buy Treasury bonds and mortgage-bond securities, as well as to help to mitigate the effects on the broader economy.
That is to say, the money the Fed gives banks has the goal of stimulating demand, or increasing the demand for the goods and services that the Fed buys.
It’s a fairly simple explanation, but one that’s rarely met with skepticism.
That’s because it’s hard to find an economist who has a problem with the Fed’s view that it’s buying a portfolio of securities.
That makes it hard to explain why the Fed would need to tell us how much it’s investing in a portfolio that’s so well known for its lack of transparency.
But the Fed has repeatedly said it’s just a way of paying down a debt that’s built up over decades, as a way to ease the financial strains of a major financial crisis.
The Fed’s annual report, due to be released Monday, will be the first major analysis since the housing market crashed in 2007.
It says the U.S. economy will grow by an annualized 3.4 percent this year, the first decline in six years.
But analysts have been skeptical of the central bank saying it has more than $3 trillion in new money to buy assets.
They’ve worried that the data would show the Fed is spending too little, too soon.
“The Fed has not provided us with detailed information about its asset purchases, which would provide a better understanding of how the funds are being spent,” said Scott Berenson, an economist at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“We have no idea what the expected returns are going to be.”
That’s because the Fed doesn’t disclose how much cash it’s giving out in QE.
Its statements are usually made public when the bank sells bonds or sells mortgage-linked securities.
The central bank has said it would like to provide the public with more information about the program, but hasn’t provided that information.
Berenson said there’s little chance the Fed will tell the public anything new.
That could be because it won’t be able to publish an annual report that will be as widely seen as its quarterly reports.
It will also have to release some kind of “snapshot” of its asset holdings, a statement of what the Fed does with the money that it gives to banks, to help explain its strategy.
The data is still very much in flux, so it’s unclear how much of the Fed could be spending on QE and what its true cost would be.
But, experts say, it would be worth watching the Fed carefully, as it continues to try to stimulate the economy and boost inflation.
“It would be a great example of a very public financial program, which could have a big impact,” said Peter Smith, chief economist at Nomura Holdings.
“But it would also have some real-world implications.”
The Fed is planning to buy $2.6 trillion of mortgage-based securities this year.
It is also giving $600 billion of cash to banks to help them repurchase the securities.
It is unclear how big a role the Fed plays in mortgage-related purchases, but it has often been a large part of the explanation for why the Federal Reserve has kept its purchases hidden.
The Fed is often asked how much the Fed invests in mortgages, which is often the only information the public has about its purchases.
That means it’s a big source of questions, said Matthew G. Hall, an analyst at Moody’s Analytics.
“There’s a lot of people who have been calling for more transparency about how the Fed manages its portfolio, and it’s not something the Fed can do,” he said.
“The Fed says it has a plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to make it public.”
Follow Stories Like This Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.