After crossing back above the $4 trillion mark back in October 2019 in the aftermath of the JPMorgan repo bailout, also known as “No QE”, the Fed’s balance sheet is nearly double that amount a little over half a year later, with the Fed reporting in its latest H.4.1 report that as of May 20, 2020, its total assets rose above $7 trillion for the first time ever, an increase of $103 billion in the past week to $7,038 billion. Putting the increase in context, the Fed’s balance sheet hit $6 trillion on April 2.
The increase was mostly the result of a $79BN increase in settled MBS purchases as well as $32BN in Treasury purchases, while there was no change in the Fed’s holdings in its commercial paper facility.
While the Fed’s balance sheet is broadly expected to hit $12 trillion in the next 12 months, the fact that the expansion has slowed down substantially is a problem, especially after the Fed tapered its daily QE to just $6 billion last week, and JPMorgan expects it to further shrink to just $5 billion per day when the new schedule is published tomorrow.
This is a problem because the Treasury has some $3 trillion in debt issuance to go in the next 6 months, and one war or another, the Fed will have to aggressively ramp up its QE again, which as we discussed over the weekend, may mean another market crash “unexpectedly” happens in the coming weeks to provide cover to the Fed for the next massive QE expansion.
There was one surprise in the latest amount of Fed corporate ETF holdings, which can be found in the “Net portfolio holdings of Commercial Paper Funding Facility II, LLC” line time.
As a reminder, earlier today we laid out a BofA report according to which the Fed would disclose $2.5 billion in total bond ETF holdings, and which assumed that the Fed, which unveiled a total of $305MM in the one full day after the program was launched, would now have a $2.5 billion total in holdings. However, the actual number was notably lower at $1.8 billion, which means that in the past 5 work days, the Fed purchased $1.5 billion in ETFs, or $300MM per day, which appears to be the Fed’s now daily purchases of LQD (for those curious, the total assets of LQD are $48 billion).
Incidentally, judging by the sharp jump in LQD pricing, $300MM is more than enough to push this critical – for all future buybacks, not to mention anchor pillar for the US bond market – ETF back to near all-time highs.
And since nobody even jokes anymore that the Fed can one day reverse or even stop these operations, the bigger question is what will the Fed’s balance sheet be when it’s all said and done, an exercise which Deutsche Bank did earlier this week when it calculated that the maximum potential size of the Fed’s balance sheet is $130 trillion and will be hit as soon as the Fed owns… well, everything.