Interest Rate Environment Shifts


For years now, investors have grown comfortable with the Federal Reserve’s low interest rate environment. Whenever Chairman Ben Bernanke holds a conference on the Fed’s interest rate policies, it essentially becomes a reiteration of the current environment. Recently, it was understood that rates would remain unchanged going into 2014.

But now, there could be a change in the way the Federal Reserve looks at quantitative easing and the way the board of governors handles inflation.

Officials today hinted that the Fed could unveil a new “sterilized” bond buying program that would ease fears of too much inflation and devaluing of the U.S. dollar. The bond buyback program would have a material impact not just on institutional investors dealing with corporate and government debt, but also primary dealers who deal directly with the Treasury with regard to auctions.

Either way, international buyers of U.S. debt remain a tad skeptical as to the “sterilized” version of buybacks would have a material impact on markets.

“Think about how many foreign buyers there are of U.S. debt,” noted one specialist from a foreign bank with a U.S. presence. “If you start mixing up the way you do things, you can scare those people off. The last thing you want to do is print bonds and have no one to sell them to.”

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