Saturday, May 02, 2009
Sometimes it's funny to read how economists describe what the Federal Reserve is doing in their ongoing quest to save the world from the effects of global deleveraging which they both enabled and condoned. This story by an anonymous economist at The Economist blazes a new trail in describing the massive increase in the Fed's balance sheet - how it's a good thing.
THE Federal Reserve does not set out to make bumper profits. But its 2008 annual accounts, released on April 23rd, would turn many a hedge-fund manager green with envy.That should make you all feel better - the Fed's turning a profit.
Like Wall Street’s finest, the Fed makes money on a spread. Its main source of funds comes from issuing cash, since currency in circulation is, in effect, an interest-free loan by the public to the central bank. The interest it earns on its loans and securities is almost pure profit, or “seigniorage,” most of which it remits to the Treasury. Last year the central bank reported a whopping $43 billion in operating income.
The fact that it buys Treasuries with money it borrows from the Treasury Department shouldn't minimize the importance of the central bank's bottom line, nor should the idea that a good portion of the central bank's $1.4 trillion increase in assets has been purchased with money created "out of thin air".