federal reserve

Federal Reserve Slashes Debit Card Transaction Fees in Proposal

If you are not aware, Mastercard, Visa currently charge some nasty fees to retailers every time you use your debit card. Same is true for credit cards. The Federal Reserve has proposed some new rules on debit card fees. They propose to cut transaction fees to 12¢ per transaction. Currently it costs retailers 44¢ on every single use of a debit card for purchases. The Federal Reserve also proposed to kill the debit transaction network monopoly system. A transaction network is where your data goes in order to debit your bank account after you swipe that plastic.

The Board is requesting comment on two alternative interchange fee standards that would apply to all covered issuers: one based on each issuer's costs, with a safe harbor (initially set at 7 cents per transaction) and a cap (initially set at 12 cents per transaction); and the other a stand-alone cap (initially set at 12 cents per transaction). Under both alternatives, circumvention or evasion of the interchange fee limitations would be prohibited. The Board also is requesting comment on possible frameworks for an adjustment to the interchange fees to reflect certain issuer costs associated with fraud prevention.

If the Board adopts either of these proposed standards in the final rule, the maximum allowable interchange fee received by covered issuers for debit card transactions would be more than 70 percent lower than the 2009 average, once the new rule takes effect on July 21, 2011.

Federal Reserve Releases Bail Out Details

The Federal Reserve released 21,000 transactions, mainly short term loans, from the financial crisis.

Many of the transactions, conducted through a variety of broad-based lending facilities, provided liquidity to financial institutions and markets through fully secured, mostly short-term loans. Purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS) supported mortgage and housing markets, lowered longer-term interest rates, and fostered economic growth. Dollar liquidity swap lines with foreign central banks helped stabilize dollar funding markets abroad, thus contributing to the restoration of stability in U.S. markets. Other transactions provided liquidity to particular institutions whose disorderly failure could have severely stressed an already fragile financial system.

As financial conditions have improved, the need for the broad-based facilities has dissipated, and most were closed earlier this year. The Federal Reserve followed sound risk-management practices in administering all of these programs, incurred no credit losses on programs that have been wound down, and expects to incur no credit losses on the few remaining programs. These facilities were open to participants that met clearly outlined eligibility criteria; participation in them reflected the severe market disruptions during the financial crisis and generally did not reflect participants' financial weakness.

Here's what's available from the Fed's press release:

  • Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility (AMLF)
  • Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF)
  • Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF)

QE2 Has Arrived - Fed to buy $900 Billion in U.S. Treasuries

The long awaited day is here. In the spirit of QE2, aka quantitative easing part II, the Federal Reserve has announced $600 billion in U.S. Treasury purchases:

The Committee intends to purchase a further $600 billion of longer-term Treasury securities by the end of the second quarter of 2011, a pace of about $75 billion per month. The Committee will regularly review the pace of its securities purchases and the overall size of the asset-purchase program in light of incoming information and will adjust the program as needed to best foster maximum employment and price stability.

Also, the thing every one knows, they will keep the Federal Funds Rate at effective zero and sure doesn't look like they will raise it anytime soon:

The Committee will maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and continues to anticipate that economic conditions, including low rates of resource utilization, subdued inflation trends, and stable inflation expectations, are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate for an extended period.

Kansas City Fed President Thomas M. Hoenig voted against this.

But wait! There's more. From the New York Federal Reserve press release is appears they are actually buying up about $900 billion U.S. Treasuries de facto.

Federal Reserve Beige Book Report

The Federal Reserve Beige Book report is out and they acknowledge overall the economy is decelerating. We're in a slow down, minimum. folks. It's official.

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts suggested continued growth in national economic activity during the reporting period of mid-July through the end of August, but with widespread signs of a deceleration compared with preceding periods.

They also acknowledge one element we have graphed here, raw capacity in manufacturing, is down.

Reports on capacity utilization were mixed. Manufacturers of high-tech products have been operating near maximum capacity of late, although this partly reflects a substantial decline in industry-wide capacity over the past three years, as noted by Dallas. More generally, the majority of Cleveland's manufacturing contacts reported that capacity utilization remained below pre-recession levels. Capital spending plans for manufacturers and firms in other industries generally indicate little change or modest increases in coming months, based on reports from the Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City, and San Francisco Districts.

They also note the increased use of temp jobs and contract labor is repressing permanent employment.

Federal Reserve Leaves Rate Unchanged

The Federal Reserve leaves the federal funds rate unchanged. Kansas City Federal Reserve President Thomas M. Hoenig was the lone dissenting voice. Below is the press release along with commentary on general economic conditions.

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in April suggests that the economic recovery is proceeding and that the labor market is improving gradually. Household spending is increasing but remains constrained by high unemployment, modest income growth, lower housing wealth, and tight credit. Business spending on equipment and software has risen significantly; however, investment in nonresidential structures continues to be weak and employers remain reluctant to add to payrolls. Housing starts remain at a depressed level. Financial conditions have become less supportive of economic growth on balance, largely reflecting developments abroad. Bank lending has continued to contract in recent months. Nonetheless, the Committee anticipates a gradual return to higher levels of resource utilization in a context of price stability, although the pace of economic recovery is likely to be moderate for a time.

Prices of energy and other commodities have declined somewhat in recent months, and underlying inflation has trended lower. With substantial resource slack continuing to restrain cost pressures and longer-term inflation expectations stable, inflation is likely to be subdued for some time.

We Don't Have Jobs, Fed Will Raise Rates Anyway

We can’t wait until unemployment is where we’d like it to be” or inflation gets “out of control” to tighten credit

The above is a quote from Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke.

Gets worse, Bernanke believes the economy will not dip into another recession, yet of course, unemployment will remain at high levels.

While the Fed will raise interest rates from a record low before the economy returns to “full employment,” Bernanke said officials don’t know when that process will start. The banking system isn’t fully healthy and lenders are “cautious” in providing credit, he said.

“The unemployment rate is still going to be high for a while, and that means that a lot of people are going to be under financial stress,” Bernanke said at the event, part of a dinner hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Bernanke’s stance is consistent with that of several Fed colleagues. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said June 3 that the central bank may need to raise rates even with “unacceptable levels of unemployment,” while Eric Rosengren of the Boston Fed said last month it wouldn’t be “appropriate” to have rates close to zero with the economy at full employment.

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