WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve said it would extend currency swap lines to nine additional countries, an attempt to keep dollars flowing to banks around the world as the coronavirus disrupts every aspect of business, creating a cash crunch in many nations.
The Fed opened currency swaps with central banks in Singapore, South Korea, Brazil, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Norway and Denmark, the Fed said in a Thursday morning release.
The Fed has a history of using so-called “swap lines” to help foreign central banks deliver U.S. dollar funding to financial institutions in their regions amid market stress. Such agreements were used extensively during the financial crisis. Indeed, the newly extended swap lines are with the same countries the Fed struck such agreements with during the 2008 financial crisis.
The Fed has standing swap lines with partners including the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, and the Swiss National Bank, and it sweetened the terms on those programs on March 15 to encourage their use.
“Because of the importance of the U.S. dollar in the global economy, strains in the markets for borrowing and lending dollars overseas can disrupt financial conditions here in the United States,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said in a news conference after that decision.
Swaps work through two transactions: A foreign central bank first sells its currency to the Fed in exchange for dollars. The foreign central bank is then obligated to buy back its currency on a specified date at the same exchange rate, with interest.
The dollar is in many ways the world’s currency. Banks overseas have some $13 trillion in dollar-denominated assets. Because banks abroad operate so heavily in dollars, they may need access to dollar-based credit to weather a shock.
“These facilities, like those already established between the Federal Reserve and other central banks, are designed to help lessen strains in global U.S. dollar funding markets,” the Fed’s Thursday release said of its new agreements.