WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve Bank of New York on Monday announced that it will ramp up the amount of short-term loans it offers banks, an effort to keep cash flowing smoothly through the financial system as markets gyrate amid fears about economic fallout from the coronavirus.
The infection has now sickened about 110,000 people, and as it spreads through the United States and Europe, worries are mounting that growth will slow dramatically. That, together with plunging oil prices, has sent global markets into turmoil.
Between Monday and Thursday, the New York Fed pledged to increase its daily offering of overnight repurchase agreements — essentially short-term loans to eligible banks — to at least $150 billion from $100 billion . It is also increasing its offering of two-week loans starting tomorrow, to at least $45 billion from at least $20 billion.
The moves “are intended to ensure that the supply of reserves remains ample and to mitigate the risk of money market pressures,” the New York Fed said in a statement.
“They should help support smooth functioning of funding markets as market participants implement business resiliency plans in response to the coronavirus,” the statement said, though it added that the Fed will “continue to adjust” operations as needed.
The Fed had already been active in the market for short-lived loans between banks and financial institutions — called the repurchase or “repo” market — for months, starting after rates in that obscure but important corner of the financial system’s plumbing spiked back in September. It had recently been shrinking the size of its injections as markets calmed.
But demand at its regular repo operations surged as markets swung, fueling speculation by investors that the Fed might lift the size of its offerings.
Officials have also been buying $60 billion in short-term Treasury bills each month to build up the financial system’s buffer of bank reserves, essentially deposits at the Fed. The goal was to keep cash flowing smoothly so that borrowing costs in money markets would stay under control.
“We will ensure that the supply of reserves in the banking system remains ample,” John C. Williams, the New York Fed president, said in a speech last week. “We are monitoring conditions in money markets closely.”