The Fed’s Quantitative Easing Gamble Costs Taxpayers Billions
The year 2023 is shaping up to be a challenging one for the Federal Reserve System.
The Fed is on track to post its first annual operating loss since 1915. Per our estimates, the loss will be large, perhaps $100 billion or more, and this cash loss does not count the unrealized mark-to-market losses on the Fed’s massive securities portfolio. An operating loss of $100 billion would, if properly accounted for, leave the Fed with negative capital of $58 billion at year-end 2023.
At current interest rates, the Fed’s operating losses will impact the federal budget for years, requiring new tax revenues to offset the continuing loss of billions of dollars in the Fed’s former remittances to the U.S. Treasury.
The Federal Reserve has already confirmed a substantial operating loss for the fourth quarter of 2022. Audited figures must wait for the Fed’s annual financial statements, but a preliminary Fed report for 2022 shows a fourth-quarter operating loss of over $18 billion. The weekly Fed H.4.1 reports suggest that after December’s 50 basis point rate hike, the Fed is losing at a rate of about $2 billion a week. This weekly loss rate when annualized totals a $100 billion or more loss in 2023. If short-term interest rates increase further, operating losses will increase. Again, these are cash losses and do not include the Fed’s unrealized, mark-to-market loss, which it reported as $1.1 trillion on Sept. 30.
The Fed obviously understood its risk of loss when it financed about $5 trillion in long-term, fixed-rate, low-yielding mortgage and Treasury securities with floating-rate liabilities. These are the net investments of non-interest-bearing liabilities—currency in circulation and Treasury deposits—thus investments financed by floating rate liabilities.
These quantitative easing purchases were a Fed gamble. With interest rates suppressed to historically minimal levels, the short-funded investments made the Fed a profit. But these investments, so funded, create
Article from Mises Wire