How the Fed’s 2008 Mortgage Experiment Fueled Today’s Housing Crisis
How should Congress assess the Federal Reserve’s track record as an investor in residential mortgage-backed securities (MBS)? Regardless of Fed spin, it merits a failing grade.
The Fed’s COVID-era intervention in the mortgage markets fueled the second real estate bubble of the 21st century. The bubble ended when the Fed stopped purchasing MBS and raised rates to fight inflation. While time will tell whether recent increases in home prices are reversed, the end of the bubble has already cost the Fed over $400 billion in losses on its MBS investments.
From 1913 until 2008, the Fed owned precisely zero mortgage-backed securities. While the Fed’s monetary policy decisions still impacted conditions in the housing and mortgage markets, they did so indirectly through the influence the Fed’s purchases and sales of Treasury securities had on market interest rates.
In a radical “temporary” policy response to the 2008 financial crisis, the Fed began intervening directly in the mortgage market. Through a series of MBS purchases, the Fed’s MBS portfolio ballooned from $0 to $1.77 trillion by August 2017. The Fed subsequently altered policy and slowly reduced its MBS holdings. By March 2020, it held about $1.4 trillion in MBS.
When the COVID crisis hit in March 2020, the Fed decided to reinstate its 2008 financial crisis rescue plan. It resumed purchasing MBS as well as Treasury notes and bonds. By the time it stopped its purchases in the spring of 2022, it owned $2.7 trillion in MBS. The Fed had become the largest investor in MBS in the world. By spring 2022, it owned nearly 22 percent of all 1-to-4 family residential mortgages in the U.S. By Sept. 30, the date of the last available quarterly Fed consolidated financial statement, the Fed had lost $438 billion on its MBS investments. These losses will increase if the fight to subdue inflation requires still hi
Article from Mises Wire