The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s operation to inject cash into the financial system over the end of the year was undersubscribed on Thursday, possibly an indication of diminishing need for funding over that period.
Primary dealers submitted $31.3 billion in bids for the Fed’s 14-day term repo operation, the first two-week offering that spans year-end. That was less than the $35 billion on offer. It was also the fifth term offering aimed at easing liquidity concerns on Dec. 31.
The central bank is planning to offer a total of $490 billion via repo operations for the turn of the year, including the $125 billion that it has already pumped in through four earlier term actions. The earlier offerings were all oversubscribed, most recently on Monday when dealers submitted $54.25 billion of securities, above the maximum of $50 billion.
An undersubscribed operation may signal that dealer balance sheets are nearing capacity, or that those who need liquidity for year-end have secured enough. But BMO Capital Markets warns against drawing a decisive conclusion.
“We’d caution against jumping to the conclusion that this is because primary dealer balance sheets are already maxed out because of the pricing factor,” BMO strategist Jon Hill wrote in a note to clients.
Hill said the term rate of 1.57% may be more expensive outlet for the primary dealers rather than just rolling the overnight facility at 1.55%. “If dealers think they can still fund at the lower rate through Jan. 2, that would be the more cost effective funding strategy,” he said.
The Fed also conducted an overnight repo operation Thursday with a limit of $120 billion. As with the most recent of these actions, it was undersubscribed, attracting just $26.3 billion of bids. That’s the lowest since Sept. 27, New York Fed data show.
The central bank has been injecting liquidity into the repo market since the Sept. 17 when the overnight rate for general collateral repurchase agreements spiked to 10% from around 2%. It has also been buying Treasury bills to add reserves to the system.
The Fed will conduct three more term operations for the turn, as well as a one-day forward settlement operation on Dec. 30 that settles on Dec. 31 and matures Jan. 2.
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