The term "Washington Capital" means the Fed''s effort to prevent catastrophic market declines.
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What Is a Fed Put?
The central bank of the United States is to maintain a stable economy through stable prices and high employment. It is doing this by developing strategies to stimulate growth, lending, and business growth by lowering the Fed Funds Rates, a target rate for banks that increases short- and long-term interest rates throughout financial systems.
The Fed is making strides in addition to acquiring trillions of dollars of Treasuries in the United States, which are known as quantitative easing. During bear markets, when rates are rising, unemployment is high, and inflation must be controlled, the Fed tightens the monetary supply through actions such as quantitative tightening. When the Treasuries it purchased expires, they are erased from their balance sheets.
Much pressure has been generated from the Fed''s actions; nothing they do goes unnoticed. Analysts decry the Federal Reserve''s intrinsic ability to regulate financial markets. They argue that the markets should and should not be meddling. Members of the Federal Reserve, on the other hand, believe their ability to assure that the markets don''t tailspin out of control; their careful aides assist in avoiding catastrophes like the 1929 stock market crash.
One thing everyone can agree on is that practice is becoming more widespread, and that when the Fed steps in to bail out the markets, it becomes more commonplace.
How Is a Fed Put Related to a Put Option?
A Fed put is analogous to put contracts in options investing. A put option is a contract that gives its purchaser the right to sell shares of a particular company''s common stock for a set price (the strike price) on or before the contract expiration. A put contract can help protect its purchaser against fluctuating in the price of the stock they own outside the strike price of the contract. In a similar manner, a Fed put assures investors that Fed policy will prevent financial markets from experiencing choppy declines.
When investors consider that the Fed will aid stock markets and bail it out in hot waters, they will become more susceptible to taking additional risks. In this type of situation, investors feel more comfortable speculating in riskier assets, such as small-cap technology stocks or cryptocurrencies, but this is the possibility that asset bubbles, or pockets, may arise.
What Are Some Examples of Fed Puts?
According to a widely circulated 2008 paper called Market Bailouts and the Fed Put, President of the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, dispelled this myth, at least historically speaking. He explained how in the period between 1950 and 2006, there were 21 stock declines of 10% or greater, but within three months of each decline, the Fed had either held rates steady or increased them more than half the time (12 instances).
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However, what is evident is that in cases of stock market declines, defined as a 10% decrease in a stock market index in a matter of days, the Fed joins forces with added liquidity.
Here are a few examples.
- After the Black Monday stock market crash of 1987, the Dow fell over 22% in one day. The Federal Reserve, under the helm of newly appointed President Alan Greenspan, issued a one sentence response: The Federal Reserve, consistent with its responsibilities as the nations central bank, affirmed today its readiness to serve as a source of liquidity to support the economic and financial system. It then increased loans of Federal Funds by 60% and lowered interest rates, specifically, the Fed Funds rate, by 100 points from 7.5% in October 1987 to 6.5% in February 1988. As a result of Greenspans efforts, the term Fed put is also synonymous with the term Greenspan put.
- The 20072008 Financial Crisis, which was fueled by the implosion of U.S. mortgage-backed securities, saw the S&P 500 fall 20% in one week in October 2008. In response, the Federal Reserve lowered its target Fed Funds rate from 4.5% at the end of 2007 to between 0% to 0.25% by the end of 2008.
- At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dow fell over 12% in one day, on March 16, 2020. In response, the Fed again cut the Fed Funds rate to 0% from a previous range of 1% to 1.5% and announced a $700 billion round of quantitative easing measures.
How Does the Fed Increase Liquidity in the Market?
People think that when the Fed lowers interest rates, it becomes easier for homeowners, for example, to get a mortgage or a business to buy property to build a new manufacturing facility because borrowers will have a higher interest rate. This is because the total amount of interest a borrower will owe their lender and vice versa.
The Fed increases liquidity by quantitative easing measures. When it purchases trillions of dollars of Treasuries, mortgage-backed securities, or corporate bonds, the Fed lowers long-term interest rates by increasing asset prices, or the value of the non-purchased securities. This also increases its balance sheet, which means banks must keep less reserves on hand, which in turn makes it easier for banks to lend to one another, as well as encourages lending among consumers.
William Poole, the president of the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, believed that if the Fed intervened in with more expansive monetary policy in the 1930s, it might have prevented many businesses and households from declaring bankruptcy.
How Is a Fed Put Different from a Bailout?
A bailout is an emergency infusion of money into a failing business to prevent it from going under. The money may be made by a government, another organization, or an individual. The term bailout has a frightening connotation, implying that the company should have known better or acted with more caution in order to avoid such dire straits.
The Federal Reserve has no cash and no authority to provide capital or guarantees to lenders to provide a bailout in the traditional sense, according to Fed President Poole. It is not possible to bail out banks because only loans that are fully secured by good collateral and only to well capitalized banks. The Fed may offer loans to weak banks to prevent immediate collapse, but again to those who have adequate collateral.
The Fed must be careful about its actions that do not inadvertently facilitate dependency. Another phenomenon thats likely to happen when the Fed closes its infusion of liquidity. It usually results in a taper tantrum. Sometimes, it takes another round of quantitative easing to ease the markets.