Fed Slashes Rates Again as Coronavirus Pressure Mounts

The central bank is set to keep rates close to zero until the economy shakes off the effects of the outbreak.
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The U.S. Federal Reserve adopted urgent measures on Sunday, before financial markets opened, and cut interest rates to a range of 0-0.25 percent, with the Fed “prepared to use its full range of tools to support the flow of credit to households and businesses,” according to the Committee’s statement. The move is meant to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, marking the second rate cut this month

The Fed will also purchase more Treasury securities aimed at supporting financial markets. Further measures include expanding repurchase operations, a credit facility for commercial banks to relieve household and business lending and dollar swap lines with foreign banks.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus Raises Commercial Real Estate Uncertainty

The central bank said the effects of the coronavirus outbreak will weigh on economic activity in the near term and pose risks to the economic outlook. Additionally, the rates will be kept near zero until the Federal Open Market Committee is confident that the economy has weathered recent events. Over the coming months, the Open Market Trading Desk will expand holdings of Treasury securities by at least $500 billion and holdings of agency mortgage-backed securities by at least $200 billion.

The Committee directed the Desk to conduct purchases at an appropriate pace “to support the smooth functioning of markets for Treasury securities and agency MBS,” read the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s statement on Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities. Purchases will commence today, with acquisitions to be carried out across a range of maturities and security types. The Desk expects to acquire around $80 billion in agency MBS through April 13.

Discount window, reserve requirements

The Fed opened its discount window to commercial banks in an effort to support the liquidity and stability of the banking system, lowering the primary credit rate by 150 basis points, to 0.25 percent. “The Board also today announced that depository institutions may borrow from the discount window for periods as long as 90 days, pre-payable and renewable by the borrower on a daily basis,” the Fed’s statement read.

Apart from its immediate effect on the markets, the outbreak has also deeply impacted the real estate conference circuit. Amid nationwide efforts to slow the disease’s spread by minimizing face-to-face contact, the Real Estate Board of New York, the International Council of Shopping Centers and the New York chapter of the Building Owners and Managers Association have canceled or postponed events or switched to virtual meetings.