Powell says the Fed doesn’t want to ‘run through the bond market like an elephant’

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank’s announced move this week to buy corporate bonds fulfills a pledge it had made earlier but is not an effort to take over the market.

“It’s out of an excess of caution to preserve these gains for market function by following through,” Powell said Tuesday during his semiannual testimony before Congress. “I don’t see us wanting to run through the bond market like an elephant snuffing out price signals, things like that.”

In a move first telegraphed on March 23, the Fed said it will expand its purchase of corporate bonds beyond exchange-traded funds and into individual issues. The result will be essentially creating its own index of bonds that spread across a wide swatch of the market and could see the Fed ultimately purchase up to $750 billion worth of securities.

The purchases will be made on already existing bonds rather than first issues from companies.

When the Fed first announced the program, it coincided with a sharp turn in a market that went from the longest growth period in history to its quickest drop of more than 20%, or a bear market. Stocks immediately snapped higher after the central bank said it would buy corporate debt, with the S&P 500 rising more than 30% since.

Powell said the return to risk from investors came “because they believe we’ll so what we say we’re going to do.”

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