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Governor Lael Brainard: Private Money and Central Bank Money as Payments Go Digital: an Update on CBDCs

Technology is driving dramatic change in the U.S. payments system, which is a vital infrastructure that touches everyone.1 The pandemic accelerated the migration to contactless transactions and highlighted the importance of access to safe, timely, and low-cost payments for all. With technology platforms introducing digital private money into the U.S. payments system, and foreign authorities exploring the potential for central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) in cross-border payments, the Federal Reserve is stepping up its research and public engagement on CBDCs. As Chair Powell discussed last week, an important early step on public engagement is a plan to publish a discussion paper this summer to lay out the Federal Reserve Board’s current thinking on digital payments, with a particular focus on the benefits and risks associated with CBDC in the U.S. context.2

Sharpening the Focus on CBDCs

Four developments—the growing role of digital private money, the migration to digital payments, plans for the use of foreign CBDCs in cross-border payments, and concerns about financial exclusion—are sharpening the focus on CBDCs.

First, some technology platforms are developing stablecoins for use in payments networks.3 A stablecoin is a type of digital asset whose value is tied in some way to traditional stores of value, such as government-issued, or fiat, currencies or gold. Stablecoins vary widely in the assets they are linked to, the ability of users to redeem the stablecoin claims for the reference assets, whether they allow unhosted wallets, and the extent to which a central issuer is liable for making good on redemption rights. Unlike central bank fiat currencies, stablecoins do not have legal tender status. Depending on underlying arrangements, some may expose consumers and businesses to risk. If widely adopted, stablecoins could serve as the basis of an alternative payments system oriented around new private forms of money. Given the network externalities associated with achieving scale in payments, there is a risk that the widespread use of private monies for consumer payments could fragment parts of the U.S. payment system in ways that impose burdens and raise costs for households and businesses. A predominance of private monies may introduce consumer protection and financial stability risks because of their potential volatility and the risk of run-like behavior. Indeed, the period in the nineteenth century when there was active competition among issuers of private paper banknotes in the United States is now notorious for inefficiency, fraud, and instability in the payments system.4 It led to the need for a uniform form of money backed by the national government.

Second, the pandemic accelerated the migration to digital payments. Even before the pandemic, some countries, like Sweden, were seeing a pronounced migration from cash to digital payments.5 To the extent that digital payments crowd out the use of cash, this raises questions about how to ensure that consumers retain access to a form of safe central bank money. In the United States, the pandemic led to an acceleration of the migration to digital payments as well as increased demand for cash. While the use of cash spiked at certain times, there was a pronounced shift by consumers and businesses to contactless transactions facilitated by electronic payments.6 The Federal Reserve remains committed to ensuring that the public has access to safe, reliable, and secure means of payment, including cash. As part of this commitment, we must explore—and try to anticipate—the extent to which households’ and businesses’ needs and preferences may migrate further to digital payments over time.

Third, some foreign countries have chosen to develop and, in some cases, deploy their own CBDC. Although each country will decide whether to issue a CBDC based on its unique domestic conditions, the issuance of a CBDC in one jurisdiction, along with its prominent use in cross-border payments, could have significant effects across the globe. Given the potential for CBDCs to gain prominence in cross-border payments and the reserve currency role of the dollar, it is vital for the United States to be at the table in the development of cross-border standards.

Finally, the pandemic underscored the importance of access to timely, safe, efficient, and affordable payments for all Americans and the high cost associated with being unbanked and underbanked. While the large majority of pandemic relief payments moved quickly via direct deposits to bank accounts, it took weeks to distribute relief payments in the form of prepaid debit cards and checks to households who did not have up-to-date bank account information with the Internal Revenue Service. The challenges of getting relief payments to these households highlighted the benefits of delivering payments more quickly, cheaply, and seamlessly through digital means.

Policy Considerations
In any assessment of a CBDC, it is important to be clear about what benefits a CBDC would offer over and above current and emerging payments options, what costs and risks a CBDC might entail, and how it might affect broader policy objectives. I will briefly discuss several of the most prominent considerations.

Preserve general access to safe central bank money
Central bank money is important for payment systems because it represents a safe settlement asset, allowing users to exchange central bank liabilities without concern about liquidity and credit risk. Consumers and businesses don’t generally consider whether the money they are using is a liability of the central bank, as with cash, or of a commercial bank, as with bank deposits. This is largely because the two are seamlessly interchangeable for most purposes owing to the provision of federal deposit insurance and banking supervision, which provide protection for consumers and businesses alike. It is not obvious that new forms of private money that reference fiat currency, like stablecoins, can carry the same level of protection as bank deposits or fiat currency. Although various federal and state laws establish protections for users, nonbank issuers of private money are not regulated to the same extent as banks, the value stored in these systems is not insured directly by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and consumers may be at risk that the issuer will not be able to honor its liabilities. New forms of private money may introduce counterparty risk into the payments system in new ways that could lead to consumer protection threats or, at large scale, broader financial stability risks.

In contrast, a digital dollar would be a new type of central bank money issued in digital form for use by the general public. By introducing safe central bank money that is accessible to households and businesses in digital payments systems, a CBDC would reduce counterparty risk and the associated consumer protection and financial stability risks.

Improve efficiency
One expected benefit is that a CBDC would reduce or even eliminate operational and financial inefficiencies, or other frictions, in payments, clearing, and settlement. Today, the speed by which consumers and businesses can access the funds following a payment can vary significantly, up to a few days when relying on certain instruments, such as a check, to a few seconds in a real-time payments system. Advances in technology, including the use of distributed ledgers and smart contracts, may have the potential to fundamentally change the way in which payment activities are conducted and the roles of financial intermediaries and infrastructures. The introduction of a CBDC may provide an important foundation for beneficial innovation and competition in retail payments in the United States.

Most immediately, we are taking a critical step to build a strong foundation with the introduction of the FedNowSM Service, a new instant payments infrastructure that is scheduled to go into production in two years. The FedNow Service will enable banks of every size and in every community across America to provide safe and efficient instant payment services around the clock, every day of the year. Through the banks using the service, consumers and businesses will be able to send and receive payments conveniently, such as on a mobile device, and recipients will have full access to funds immediately.

Promote competition and diversity and lower transactions costs
Today, the costs of certain retail payments transactions are high and not always transparent to end users.7 Competition among a diversity of payment providers and payment types has the potential to increase the choices available to businesses and consumers, reduce transactions costs, and foster innovation in end-user services, although it could also contribute to fragmentation of the current payments system. By providing access to a digital form of safe central bank money, a CBDC could provide an important foundation on which private-sector competition could flourish.

Reduce cross-border frictions
Cross-border payments, such as remittances, represent one of the most compelling use cases for digital currencies. The intermediation chains for cross-border payments are notoriously long, complex, costly, and opaque. Digitalization, along with a reduction in the number of intermediaries, holds considerable promise to reduce the cost, opacity, and time required for cross-border payments. While the introduction of CBDCs may be part of the solution, international collaboration on standard setting and protections against illicit activity will be required in order to achieve material improvements in cost, timeliness, and transparency.8

We are collaborating with international colleagues through the Bank for International Settlements, Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures, and the G7 to ensure the U.S. stays abreast of developments related to CBDC abroad. We are engaging in several international efforts to improve the transparency, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness of cross-border payments. It will be important to be engaged at the outset on the development of any international standards that may apply to CBDCs, given the dollar’s important role as a reserve currency.

Complement currency and bank deposits
A guiding principle for any payments innovation is that it should improve upon the existing payments system. Consumers have access to reliable money in the forms of private bank accounts and central bank issued currency, which form the underpinnings of the current retail payments system. The design of any CBDC should complement and not replace currency and bank accounts.

Preserve financial stability and monetary policy transmission
The introduction of a CBDC has the potential to have wide-reaching effects, and there are open questions about how CBDC could affect financial stability and monetary policy transmission. Some research indicates that the introduction of a CBDC might raise the risk of a flight out of deposits at weak banks in favor of CBDC holdings at moments of financial stress.9 Other research indicates that the increase in competition could result in more attractive terms on transactions accounts and an overall increase in banking system deposits.10 Banks play a critical role in credit intermediation and monetary policy transmission, as well as in payments. Thus, the design of any CBDC would need to include safeguards to protect against disintermediation of banks and to preserve monetary policy transmission more broadly. While it is critical to consider the ways in which a CBDC could introduce risks relative to the current payments system, it may increase resilience relative to a payments system where private money is prominent.

Protect privacy and safeguard financial integrity
The design of any CBDC would need to both safeguard the privacy of households’ payments transactions and prevent and trace illicit activity to maintain the integrity of the financial system, which will require the digital verification of identities. There are a variety of approaches to safeguarding the privacy of payments transactions while also identifying and preventing illicit activity and verifying digital identities. Addressing these critical objectives will require working across government agencies to assign roles and responsibilities for preventing illicit transactions and clearly establishing how consumer financial data would be protected.

Increase financial inclusion
Today 5.4 percent of American households lack access to bank accounts and the associated payment options they offer, and a further 18.7 percent were underbanked as of 2017.11 The lack of access to bank accounts imposes high burdens on these households, whose financial resilience is often fragile. At the height of the pandemic, the challenges associated with getting relief payments to hard-to-reach households highlighted that it is important for all households to have transactions accounts. The Federal Reserve’s proposals for strengthening the Community Reinvestment Act emphasize the value of banks providing cost-free, low-balance accounts and other banking services targeted to underbanked and unbanked communities.12 And a core goal of FedNow is to provide ubiquitous access to an instant payments system via depository institutions.

CBDC may be one part of a broader solution to the challenge of achieving ubiquitous account access.13 Depending on the design, CBDC may have the ability to lower transaction costs and increase access to digital payments. In emergencies, CBDC may offer a mechanism for the swift and direct transfer of funds, providing rapid relief to those most in need. A broader solution to financial inclusion would also need to address any perceived barriers to maintaining a transaction account, along with the need to maintain up-to-date records on active accounts to reach a large segment of the population.14

To explore these broader issues, the Federal Reserve is undertaking research on financial inclusion. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is launching a public–private sector collaboration as a Special Committee on Payments Inclusion to ensure that cash-based and vulnerable populations can safely access and benefit from digital payments.15 This work is complemented by a new Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland initiative to explore the prospects for CBDC to increase financial inclusion. The initiative will identify CBDC design features and delivery approaches focused on expanding access to individuals who do not currently use traditional financial services.

Technology Considerations
Multidisciplinary teams at the Federal Reserve are investigating the technological and policy issues associated with digital innovations in payments, clearing, and settlement, including the benefits and risks associated with a potential U.S. CBDC. For example, the TechLab group at the Federal Reserve Board is performing hands-on research and experimentation on potential future states of money, payments, and digital currencies. A second group, the Digital Innovations Policy program, is considering a broad range of policy issues associated with the rise of digital payments, including the potential benefits and risks associated with CBDC.

To deepen our research on the technological design of a CBDC, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston is partnering with Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Digital Currency Initiative on Project Hamilton to build and test a hypothetical digital currency platform using leading edge technology design options.16 This work aims to research the feasibility of the core processing of a CBDC, while remaining agnostic about a range of policy decisions. MIT and the Boston Fed plan to release a white paper next quarter that will document the ability to meet goals on throughput of geographically dispersed transactions with core processing and create an open source license for the code. Subsequent work will explore how addressing additional requirements, including resiliency, privacy, and anti-money-laundering features, will impact core processing performance and design.

Banking Activities
Research and experimentation are also occurring at supervised banking institutions to explore new technology to enhance their own operations and in response to demands from their clients for services such as custody of digital assets. While distributed ledger technology may have the potential to improve efficiencies, increase competition, and lower costs, digital assets pose heightened risks such as those related to Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering, cybersecurity, price volatility, privacy, and consumer compliance. The Federal Reserve is actively monitoring developments in this area, engaging with the industry and other regulators, and working to identify any regulatory, supervisory, and oversight framework gaps. Given that decisions at one banking agency can have implications for the other agencies, it is important that regulators work together to develop common approaches to ensure that banks are appropriately identifying, monitoring, and managing risks associated with digital assets.

Public Engagement
In light of the growing role of digital private money in the broader migration to digital payments, the potential use of foreign CBDCs in cross-border payments, and the importance of financial inclusion, the Federal Reserve is stepping up its research and public engagement on a digital version of the U.S. dollar. Members of Congress and executive agencies are similarly exploring this important issue. As noted above, to help inform these efforts, the Federal Reserve plans to issue a discussion paper to solicit public comment on a range of questions related to payments, financial inclusion, data privacy, and information security, with regard to a CBDC in the U.S. context.17 The Federal Reserve remains committed to ensuring a safe, inclusive, efficient, and innovative payments system that works for all Americans.


1. I am grateful to Alexandra Fernandez, Sonja Danburg, David Mills, and David Pope of the Federal Reserve Board for their assistance in preparing this text. These are my own views and do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Reserve Board or the Federal Open Market Committee. Return to text

2. See Jerome Powell, “Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell Outlines the Federal Reserve’s Response to Technological Advances Driving Rapid Change in the Global Payments Landscape,” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System news release, May 20, 2021. Return to text

3. See Lael Brainard, “The Digitalization of Payments and Currency: Some Issues for Consideration,” remarks at the Symposium on the Future of Payments, Stanford University, California, February 5, 2021. Return to text

4. See, for instance, Joshua R. Greenberg, Bank Notes and Shinplasters: The Rage for Paper Money in the Early Republic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020). Return to text

5. Codruta Boar and Róbert Szemere, “Payments go (even more) digital” (Basel: Bank for International Settlements, January 2021). Return to text

6. Kelsey Coyle, Laura Kim, and Shaun O’Brien, Consumer Payments and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Second Supplement to the 2020 Findings from the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice (San Francisco: Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, February 2021). Return to text

7. Marie-Hélène Felt, Fumiko Hayashi, Joanna Stavins, and Angelika Welte, Distributional Effects of Payment Card Pricing and Merchant Cost Pass-through in the United States and Canada (PDF), Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Research Department Working Papers No. 20-13 (Boston: FRB Boston, 2020). Return to text

8. See Bank for International Settlements, Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures, Enhancing cross-border payments: building blocks of a global roadmap Stage 2 report to the G20 (PDF) (Basel: BIS, July 2020); and Financial Stability Board, Enhancing Cross-border Payments: Stage 3 Roadmap (PDF) (Washington: FSB, October 13, 2020). Return to text

9. Christian Pfister, Monetary Policy and Digital Currencies: Much Ado about Nothing? (PDF) Banque de France Working Paper 642 (Paris: Banque de France, 2017). Return to text

10. John Barrdear and Michael Kumhof, The Macroeconomics of Central Bank Issued Digital Currencies, Bank of England Working Paper No. 605 (London: BOE, July 18, 2016), https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2811208. Return to text

11. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, How America Banks: Household Use of Banking and Financial Services (Washington: FDIC, October 19, 2020); and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households (Washington: FDIC, 2017). Return to text

12. See, for instance the Bank On National Account Standards, https://2wvkof1mfraz2etgea1p8kiy-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Bank-On-National-Account-Standards-2021-2022.pdf. Return to text

13. See Jesse Leigh Maniff, Inclusion by Design: Crafting a Central Bank Digital Currency to Reach All Americans, (PDF) Payments System Research Briefing, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City (Kansas City: FRB Kansas, December 2, 2020); and John Crawford, Lev Menand, and Morgan Ricks, “FedAccounts: Digital Dollars,” (PDF) George Washington Law Review, Vol. 89, p. 113, January 28, 2021. Return to text

14. For more information, see the Federal Reserve Community Reinvestment Act Proposed Rulemaking at https://www.federalreserve.gov/consumerscommunities/community-reinvestment-act-proposed-rulemaking.htmReturn to text

15. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, “New Committee to Advance Safe, Efficient, Inclusive Payments,” news release, May 12, 2021. Return to text

16. See Eric Rosengren, “Central Bank Perspectives on Central Bank Digital Currencies,” remarks at the panel discussion of the Program on International Financial Systems, Harvard Law School, May 12, 2021, ; Jim S. Cunha, “Boston Fed’s Digital Dollar Research Project Honors 2 Hamiltons, Alexander and Margaret,” Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, February 25, 2021; and Lael Brainard, “An Update on Digital Currencies,” remarks at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Innovation Office Hours, August 13, 2020. Return to text

17. See Jerome Powell, “Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell Outlines the Federal Reserve’s Response to Technological Advances Driving Rapid Change in the Global Payments Landscape,” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System news release, May 20, 2021.

Jerome H. Powell: Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress

Chairman Brown, Ranking Member Toomey, and other members of the Committee, I am pleased to present the Federal Reserve’s semiannual Monetary Policy Report.

At the Federal Reserve, we are strongly committed to achieving the monetary policy goals that Congress has given us: maximum employment and price stability. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have taken forceful actions to provide support and stability, to ensure that the recovery will be as strong as possible, and to limit lasting damage to households, businesses, and communities. Today I will review the current economic situation before turning to monetary policy.

Current Economic Situation and Outlook
The path of the economy continues to depend significantly on the course of the virus and the measures undertaken to control its spread. The resurgence in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in recent months is causing great hardship for millions of Americans and is weighing on economic activity and job creation. Following a sharp rebound in economic activity last summer, momentum slowed substantially, with the weakness concentrated in the sectors most adversely affected by the resurgence of the virus. In recent weeks, the number of new cases and hospitalizations has been falling, and ongoing vaccinations offer hope for a return to more normal conditions later this year. However, the economic recovery remains uneven and far from complete, and the path ahead is highly uncertain.

Household spending on services remains low, especially in sectors that typically require people to gather closely, including leisure and hospitality. In contrast, household spending on goods picked up encouragingly in January after moderating late last year. The housing sector has more than fully recovered from the downturn, while business investment and manufacturing production have also picked up. The overall recovery in economic activity since last spring is due in part to unprecedented fiscal and monetary actions, which have provided essential support to many households, businesses, and communities.

As with overall economic activity, the pace of improvement in the labor market has slowed. Over the three months ending in January, employment rose at an average monthly rate of only 29,000. Continued progress in many industries has been tempered by significant losses in industries such as leisure and hospitality, where the resurgence in the virus and increased social distancing have weighed further on activity. The unemployment rate remained elevated at 6.3 percent in January, and participation in the labor market is notably below pre-pandemic levels. Although there has been much progress in the labor market since the spring, millions of Americans remain out of work. As discussed in the February Monetary Policy Report, the economic downturn has not fallen equally on all Americans, and those least able to shoulder the burden have been the hardest hit. In particular, the high level of joblessness has been especially severe for lower-wage workers and for African Americans, Hispanics, and other minority groups. The economic dislocation has upended many lives and created great uncertainty about the future.

The pandemic has also left a significant imprint on inflation. Following large declines in the spring, consumer prices partially rebounded over the rest of last year. However, for some of the sectors that have been most adversely affected by the pandemic, prices remain particularly soft. Overall, on a 12-month basis, inflation remains below our 2 percent longer-run objective.

While we should not underestimate the challenges we currently face, developments point to an improved outlook for later this year. In particular, ongoing progress in vaccinations should help speed the return to normal activities. In the meantime, we should continue to follow the advice of health experts to observe social-distancing measures and wear masks.

Monetary Policy

I will now turn to monetary policy. In the second half of last year, the Federal Open Market Committee completed our first-ever public review of our monetary policy strategy, tools, and communication practices. We undertook this review because the U.S. economy has changed in ways that matter for monetary policy. The review’s purpose was to identify improvements to our policy framework that could enhance our ability to achieve our maximum-employment and price-stability objectives. The review involved extensive outreach to a broad range of people and groups through a series of Fed Listens events.

As described in the February Monetary Policy Report, in August, the Committee unanimously adopted its revised Statement on Longer-Run Goals and Monetary Policy Strategy. Our revised statement shares many features with its predecessor. For example, we have not changed our 2 percent longer-run inflation goal. However, we did make some key changes. Regarding our employment goal, we emphasize that maximum employment is a broad and inclusive goal. This change reflects our appreciation for the benefits of a strong labor market, particularly for low- and moderate-income communities. In addition, we state that our policy decisions will be informed by our “assessments of shortfalls of employment from its maximum level” rather than by “deviations from its maximum level.”1 This change means that we will not tighten monetary policy solely in response to a strong labor market. Regarding our price-stability goal, we state that we will seek to achieve inflation that averages 2 percent over time. This means that, following periods when inflation has been running below 2 percent, appropriate monetary policy will likely aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time. With this change, we aim to keep longer-term inflation expectations well anchored at our 2 percent goal. Well-anchored inflation expectations enhance our ability to meet both our employment and inflation goals, particularly in the current low interest rate environment in which our main policy tool is likely to be more frequently constrained by the lower bound.

We have implemented our new framework by forcefully deploying our policy tools. As noted in our January policy statement, we expect that it will be appropriate to maintain the current accommodative target range of the federal funds rate until labor market conditions have reached levels consistent with the Committee’s assessments of maximum employment and inflation has risen to 2 percent and is on track to moderately exceed 2 percent for some time. In addition, we will continue to increase our holdings of Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities at least at their current pace until substantial further progress has been made toward our goals. These purchases, and the associated increase in the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, have materially eased financial conditions and are providing substantial support to the economy. The economy is a long way from our employment and inflation goals, and it is likely to take some time for substantial further progress to be achieved. We will continue to clearly communicate our assessment of progress toward our goals well in advance of any change in the pace of purchases.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the Federal Reserve has been taking actions to support more directly the flow of credit in the economy, deploying our emergency lending powers to an unprecedented extent, enabled in large part by financial backing and support from Congress and the Treasury. Although the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) facilities are no longer open to new activity, our other facilities remain in place.

We understand that our actions affect households, businesses, and communities across the country. Everything we do is in service to our public mission. We are committed to using our full range of tools to support the economy and to help ensure that the recovery from this difficult period will be as robust as possible.

Federal Reserve issues FOMC statement – December 16, 2020

The Federal Reserve is committed to using its full range of tools to support the U.S. economy in this challenging time, thereby promoting its maximum employment and price stability goals.

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing tremendous human and economic hardship across the United States and around the world. Economic activity and employment have continued to recover but remain well below their levels at the beginning of the year. Weaker demand and earlier declines in oil prices have been holding down consumer price inflation. Overall financial conditions remain accommodative, in part reflecting policy measures to support the economy and the flow of credit to U.S. households and businesses.

The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus. The ongoing public health crisis will continue to weigh on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term.

The Committee seeks to achieve maximum employment and inflation at the rate of 2 percent over the longer run. With inflation running persistently below this longer-run goal, the Committee will aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time so that inflation averages 2 percent over time and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2 percent. The Committee expects to maintain an accommodative stance of monetary policy until these outcomes are achieved. The Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and expects it will be appropriate to maintain this target range until labor market conditions have reached levels consistent with the Committee’s assessments of maximum employment and inflation has risen to 2 percent and is on track to moderately exceed 2 percent for some time. In addition, the Federal Reserve will continue to increase its holdings of Treasury securities by at least $80 billion per month and of agency mortgage-backed securities by at least $40 billion per month until substantial further progress has been made toward the Committee’s maximum employment and price stability goals. These asset purchases help foster smooth market functioning and accommodative financial conditions, thereby supporting the flow of credit to households and businesses.

In assessing the appropriate stance of monetary policy, the Committee will continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook. The Committee would be prepared to adjust the stance of monetary policy as appropriate if risks emerge that could impede the attainment of the Committee’s goals. The Committee’s assessments will take into account a wide range of information, including readings on public health, labor market conditions, inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and financial and international developments.

Voting for the monetary policy action were Jerome H. Powell, Chair; John C. Williams, Vice Chair; Michelle W. Bowman; Lael Brainard; Richard H. Clarida; Patrick Harker; Robert S. Kaplan; Neel Kashkari; Loretta J. Mester; and Randal K. Quarles.

Implementation Note issued December 16, 2020

Jerome H. Powell: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act

Chair Jerome H. Powell

Before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.

Chairman Crapo, Ranking Member Brown, and other members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to update you on our ongoing measures to address the hardship wrought by the pandemic.

Our public health professionals continue to deliver our most important response, and we remain grateful for their service.

The Federal Reserve, along with others across government, is using its policies to help alleviate the economic burden. Since the pandemic’s onset, we have taken forceful actions to provide relief and stability, to ensure that the recovery will be as strong as possible, and to limit lasting damage to the economy.

Economic activity has continued to recover from its depressed second-quarter level. The reopening of the economy led to a rapid rebound in activity, and real gross domestic product, or GDP, rose at an annual rate of 33 percent in the third quarter. In recent months, however, the pace of improvement has moderated.

Household spending on goods, especially durable goods, has been strong and has moved above its pre-pandemic level. In contrast, spending on services remains low largely because of ongoing weakness in sectors that typically require people to gather closely, including travel and hospitality.

The overall rebound in household spending is due, in part, to federal stimulus payments and expanded unemployment benefits, which provided essential support to many families and individuals.

In the labor market, more than half of the 22 million jobs that were lost in March and April have been regained, as many people were able to return to work. As with overall economic activity, the pace of improvement in the labor market has moderated. Although we welcome this progress, we will not lose sight of the millions of Americans who remain out of work. The economic downturn has not fallen equally on all Americans, and those least able to shoulder the burden have been hardest hit. In particular, the high level of joblessness has been especially severe for lower-wage workers in the services sector, for women, and for African Americans and Hispanics. The economic dislocation has upended many lives and created great uncertainty about the future.

As we have emphasized throughout the pandemic, the outlook for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain and will depend, in large part, on the success of efforts to keep the virus in check.

The rise in new COVID-19 cases, both here and abroad, is concerning and could prove challenging for the next few months. A full economic recovery is unlikely until people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities.

Recent news on the vaccine front is very positive for the medium term. For now, significant challenges and uncertainties remain, including timing, production and distribution, and efficacy across different groups. It remains difficult to assess the timing and scope of the economic implications of these developments with any degree of confidence.

The Federal Reserve’s response has been guided by our mandate to promote maximum employment and stable prices for the American people, along with our responsibilities to promote the stability of the financial system. We have been taking broad and forceful actions to more directly support the flow of credit in the economy. Our actions, taken together, have helped unlock almost $2 trillion of funding to support businesses large and small, nonprofits, and state and local governments since April. This, in turn, has helped keep organizations from shuttering and has put employers in both a better position to keep workers on and to hire them back as the economy continues to recover.

These programs serve as a backstop to key credit markets and have helped restore the flow of credit from private lenders through normal channels. We have deployed these lending powers to an unprecedented extent. Our emergency lending powers require the approval of the Treasury and are available only in very unusual circumstances, such as those we find ourselves in today. Many of these programs have been supported by funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and I have included detailed information about those facilities in my written testimony.

The CARES Act assigns sole authority over its funds to the Treasury Secretary, subject to the statute’s specified limits. The Secretary has indicated that these limits do not permit the CARES Act-funded facilities to make new loans or purchase new assets after December 31 of this year. Accordingly, the Federal Reserve will return the unused portion of funds allocated to the lending programs that are backstopped by the CARES Act in connection with their termination at the end of this year. As the Secretary noted in his letter, non-CARES Act funds in the Exchange Stabilization Fund are available to support emergency lending facilities if they are needed.

Everything the Fed does is in service to our public mission. We are committed to using our full range of tools to support the economy and to help assure that the recovery from this difficult period will be as robust as possible on behalf of communities, families, and businesses across the country.

Thank you. I look forward to your questions.

Summary of Section 13(3) Facilities Using CARES Act Funding

The Municipal Liquidity Facility
The Municipal Liquidity Facility (MLF) helps state and local governments better manage the extraordinary cash flow pressures associated with the pandemic, in which expenses, often for critical services, are temporarily higher than normal and tax revenues are delayed or temporarily lower than normal. This facility addresses these liquidity needs by purchasing the short-term notes typically used by these governments, along with other eligible public entities, to manage their cash flows. By addressing the cash management needs of eligible issuers, the MLF was also intended to encourage private investors to reengage in the municipal securities market, including across longer maturities, thus supporting overall municipal market functioning.

Under the MLF, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York lends to a special purpose vehicle (SPV) that will directly purchase up to $500 billion of short-term notes issued by a range of eligible state and local government entities. Generally speaking, eligible issuers include all U.S. states, counties with a population of at least 500,000 residents, cities with a population of at least 250,000 residents, certain multistate entities, and revenue-bond issuers designated as eligible issuers by their state governors. Notes purchased by the facility carry yields designed to promote private market participation—that is, they carry fixed spreads based on the long-term rating of the issuer that are generally larger than those seen in normal times. With funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the Department of the Treasury has committed to make a $35 billion equity investment in the SPV.

The MLF was announced on April 9, 2020, and closed its first transaction on June 5. As of November 25, the facility had purchased two issues for a total outstanding amount of $1.7 billion.

The MLF has contributed to a strong recovery in municipal securities markets, which has facilitated a historic issuance of approximately $275 billion of bonds since late March. State and local governments and other municipal bond issuers of a wide spectrum of types, sizes, and ratings have been able to issue bonds, including long maturity bonds, with interest rates that are at or near historical lows. Those municipal issuers that do not have direct access to the Federal Reserve under the MLF have still benefited substantially from a better-functioning municipal securities market.

The Main Street Lending Program
The Federal Reserve established the Main Street Lending Program (Main Street) to support lending to small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofit organizations that were in sound financial condition before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. These businesses and nonprofits have good longer-term prospects but have encountered temporary cash flow problems due to the pandemic and, as a result, are not able to get credit on reasonable terms. In addition to providing loans for borrowers in current need of funds, Main Street offers a credit backstop for firms that do not currently need funding but may if the pandemic continues to erode their financial condition.

Under Main Street, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has set up one SPV to manage and operate five facilities: the Main Street New Loan Facility (MSNLF), the Main Street Priority Loan Facility (MSPLF), the Main Street Expanded Loan Facility (MSELF), the Nonprofit Organization New Loan Facility (NONLF), and the Nonprofit Organization Expanded Loan Facility (NOELF). The SPV will purchase up to $600 billion in Main Street loan participations, while lenders retain a percentage of the loans. Main Street loans have a five-year maturity, no principal payments in the first two years, and no interest payments in the first year. Businesses with less than 15,000 employees or 2019 revenues of less than $5 billion are eligible to apply for Main Street loans. Available loan sizes span from $100,000 to $300 million across the facilities and depend on the size and financial health of the borrower. With funding from the CARES Act, the Department of the Treasury has committed to make a $75 billion equity investment in the SPV.

The business facilities (MSNLF, MSPLF, and MSELF) and nonprofit facilities (NONLF and NOELF) have broadly similar terms but differ in their respective underwriting standards. The business facilities use the same eligibility criteria for lenders and borrowers and have many of the same terms, while other features of the loans extended in connection with each facility differ. The loan types also differ in how they interact with the borrower’s outstanding debt, including with respect to the level of pre-crisis indebtedness a borrower may have incurred. Similarly, the nonprofit facilities have many of the same characteristics, but some features of the loans extended in connection with each facility differ. Eligible lenders may originate new loans under MSNLF, MSPLF, and NONLF or may increase the size of existing loans under MSELF and NOELF.

Main Street became operational on July 6, 2020. The Federal Reserve and the Department of the Treasury have modified the program several times to reflect extensive consultations with stakeholders, most recently by lowering the minimum loan threshold and adjusting fees to make the program more accessible. As of November 25, nearly 600 lenders representing more than half of U.S. banking assets have registered to participate in the program, and the program has purchased just under $6 billion in participations.

Since Main Street became operational, the number of registered lenders and the amount of loan participations continue to increase. Program usage will depend on the course of the economy, the demand for credit by small and medium-sized businesses, and the ability of lenders to meet credit needs outside the Main Street program. Demand for Main Street loans may increase over time if the pandemic continues to affect the ability of businesses and nonprofits to access credit through normal channels and as other support programs expire.

The Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility
The Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF) is designed to work alongside the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility (PMCCF), discussed later, to support the flow of credit to large investment-grade U.S. companies so that they can maintain business operations and capacity during the period of dislocation related to COVID-19. The SMCCF supports market liquidity by purchasing, in the secondary market, corporate bonds issued by investment-grade U.S. companies, by U.S. companies that were investment grade before the onset of the pandemic and remain near investment grade, and by U.S.-listed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) whose investment objective is to provide broad exposure to the market for U.S. corporate bonds.

Under the SMCCF, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York lends to an SPV that purchases in the secondary market both corporate bond portfolios in the form of ETFs and individual corporate bonds to track a broad market index. The SMCCF purchases ETF shares and corporate bonds at fair market value in the secondary market and avoids purchasing shares of ETFs when they trade at prices that materially exceed the estimated net asset value of the underlying portfolio. The pace of purchases is a function of the condition of the U.S. corporate bond markets. With funding from the CARES Act, the Department of the Treasury has committed to make a $75 billion equity investment in the SPV for the PMCCF and SMCCF, with a $25 billion allocation toward the SMCCF.

The SMCCF staggered its launch of ETF and bond purchases in order to act as quickly and effectively as possible. Through ETF purchases beginning on May 12, 2020, the SMCCF provided liquidity to the corporate bond market relatively quickly. The Federal Reserve began direct corporate bond purchases under the broad market index purchase program on June 16. In its first week of bond purchases, the SMCCF was purchasing about $370 million per day. As of November 25, purchases have been slowed to a current daily pace of approximately $20 million of bonds and no ETFs, and the total SMCCF outstanding value has reached $13.6 billion.

The SMCCF’s announcement effect was strong, quickly improving market functioning and unlocking the supply of hundreds of billions of dollars of private credit. Since late March, more than $1.6 trillion in corporate bonds have been issued without direct government or taxpayer involvement. The SMCCF has materially reduced its pace of purchases over the past few months as a result of the substantial improvements in the functioning of the U.S. corporate bond markets. The pace of purchases going forward will continue to be guided by measures of market functioning, increasing when conditions deteriorate and decreasing when conditions improve.

The Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility
The Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility (PMCCF) is designed to work alongside the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF) to support the flow of credit to large investment-grade U.S. companies so that they can maintain business operations and capacity during the period of dislocation related to COVID-19. The PMCCF supports market liquidity by serving as a funding backstop for corporate debt.

Under the PMCCF, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York lends to an SPV. The SPV will purchase qualifying bonds and syndicated loans with maturities up to four years. With funding from the CARES Act, the Department of the Treasury has committed to make a $75 billion equity investment in the SPV for the PMCCF and SMCCF, with a $50 billion allocation toward the PMCCF.

The dual announcement of the PMCCF and SMCCF was well received by the market. Between March 23 and April 6, 2020, credit spreads for investment-grade bonds declined substantially. As of November 25, there have not been any PMCCF transactions, nor have any indications of interest been received. While the PMCCF has not purchased any bonds since it opened, it serves as a backstop should markets enter another period of stress.

The Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility
The Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) supports the flow of credit to consumers and businesses by enabling the issuance of asset-backed securities (ABS) guaranteed by newly and recently originated consumer and business loans.

Under the TALF, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York lends to an SPV. The SPV will make up to $100 billion of three-year term loans available to holders of certain triple-A-rated ABS backed by student loans, auto loans, credit card loans, loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA), and certain other assets. The Federal Reserve lends an amount equal to the market value of the ABS less a haircut, and the loan is secured at all times by the ABS. With funding from the CARES Act, Department of the Treasury has committed to make a $10 billion equity investment in the SPV.

As of November 25, the TALF has extended $3.8 billion in loans since its launch on May 20, 2020. Loans have been collateralized by SBA-guaranteed ABS, commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), and ABS secured by insurance premium finance loans or student loans.

The announcement and presence of the TALF has substantially helped improve liquidity in the ABS markets, including those for CMBS and collateralized loan obligations, with spreads in some ABS sectors returning close to normal levels. The TALF interest rates are attractive to borrowers when market conditions are stressed but not under normal conditions. While the facility is authorized to extend up to $100 billion in loans, total take-up will likely be much less unless ABS market conditions worsen.

Federal Reserve issues FOMC statement November 05, 2020

The Federal Reserve is committed to using its full range of tools to support the U.S. economy in this challenging time, thereby promoting its maximum employment and price stability goals.

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing tremendous human and economic hardship across the United States and around the world. Economic activity and employment have continued to recover but remain well below their levels at the beginning of the year. Weaker demand and earlier declines in oil prices have been holding down consumer price inflation. Overall financial conditions remain accommodative, in part reflecting policy measures to support the economy and the flow of credit to U.S. households and businesses.

The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus. The ongoing public health crisis will continue to weigh on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term.

The Committee seeks to achieve maximum employment and inflation at the rate of 2 percent over the longer run. With inflation running persistently below this longer-run goal, the Committee will aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time so that inflation averages 2 percent over time and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2 percent. The Committee expects to maintain an accommodative stance of monetary policy until these outcomes are achieved. The Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and expects it will be appropriate to maintain this target range until labor market conditions have reached levels consistent with the Committee’s assessments of maximum employment and inflation has risen to 2 percent and is on track to moderately exceed 2 percent for some time. In addition, over coming months the Federal Reserve will increase its holdings of Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities at least at the current pace to sustain smooth market functioning and help foster accommodative financial conditions, thereby supporting the flow of credit to households and businesses.

In assessing the appropriate stance of monetary policy, the Committee will continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook. The Committee would be prepared to adjust the stance of monetary policy as appropriate if risks emerge that could impede the attainment of the Committee’s goals. The Committee’s assessments will take into account a wide range of information, including readings on public health, labor market conditions, inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and financial and international developments.

Voting for the monetary policy action were Jerome H. Powell, Chair; John C. Williams, Vice Chair; Michelle W. Bowman; Lael Brainard; Richard H. Clarida; Mary C. Daly; Patrick Harker; Robert S. Kaplan; Loretta J. Mester; and Randal K. Quarles. Ms. Daly voted as an alternate member at this meeting.

Moody’s: Currency weakness will primarily impact sovereigns with large external imbalances in Latin America

New York, June 04, 2018 — A number of emerging market countries, including several in Latin America, have experienced currency depreciations and a decline in foreign exchange reserves in recent months. The tightening of monetary policy by the Federal Reserve and country-specific macroeconomic imbalances have affected capital flows to emerging markets.

“To the extent that currency fluctuations are driven by capital outflows — or significantly lower inflows — they are credit negative for countries with large external funding needs,” says Moody’s analyst Renzo Merino; “While present conditions do not place material downward credit pressure on most sovereigns in Latin America, we have seen significant pressures emerge for Argentina in particular.”

In the case of Argentina, the depreciation of the peso was the result of adverse market reaction to the authorities’ decision to ease inflation targets in late 2017, and a capital gains tax on foreign holdings of peso-denominated debt instruments that became effective in late April. In addition, Argentina’s credit profile incorporates underlying macroeconomic weaknesses, including the presence of large fiscal and current account deficits and persistently high inflation — factors that make the country stand out at times of global market volatility and asset re-pricing.

While other countries in the region have seen a worsening in external debt metrics in recent years, Moody’s sees limited contagion risk from Argentine. “There are important mitigating factors at play,” says Merino, “including higher and more stable foreign exchange reserves and government external liquid assets that can provide debt service coverage if needed, in addition to a greater prevalence of flexible exchange rates in the region.”

Although less vulnerable than Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile and Paraguay stand out because of their large external borrowing requirements relative to reserves. The presence of mitigating factors in Chile (steady foreign-currency revenue stream) and Paraguay (current account surpluses contributing to reserve accumulation) limit credit risks there. While Brazil has also experienced currency pressures in recent months, its main credit vulnerability is domestic, related to challenging fiscal dynamics.