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Zero Interest, Limitless Repo and QE4: The Federal Reserve’s Market Operations Explained

The Federal Reserve is dropping rates to zero and offering trillions in liquidity to the U.S. financial system. What is the Fed doing, and how does it work?

The post Zero Interest, Limitless Repo and QE4: The Federal Reserve’s Market Operations Explained appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Republished by Plato

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“Gradually and then suddenly.”


–Ernest Hemingway

“Your ATMs are safe, your cash is safe. There’s enough cash in the financial system and there is an infinite amount of cash in the Federal Reserve.”


–Neel Kashkari, President of the Central Bank of Minneapolis

The Federal Reserve’s market activity is reaching a fever pitch.

In response to a market bloodletting that seems to precipitate new record losses every day, the Federal Reserve has responded to a somewhat unprecedented crisis with its most thorough market interventions since 2008. 

Liquidity is drying up in the financial system, the economy is shutting down as COVID-19 arrests the global populace and the Fed’s only response at this point has been to pump cash into the system by buying up assets directly from banks and the Treasury, and lowering interest rates and reserve requirements to zero percent. If this fails to ballast the economy, negative interest rates may entrench themselves into our financial system (they’ve already arrived for Treasury Bonds).

The Federal Reserve’s market operations are ramping up by the day, and it’s using more tools simultaneously to “fix” markets than ever before. So what are these tools and how is the Fed using them? Where is this money coming from and where is it going?

Let’s get up to speed.

Started From the Repo; Now We’re Here

Despite some headlines and talking points that this crisis precipitated from the COVID-19 pandemic, the fact is, U.S. financial markets were suffering ailments of their own before this virus gripped the international stage.

They came in the form of repurchasing agreements, or repos for short. As I reported in September 2019, the Federal Reserve began open repo operations in response to rising interest rates in the overnight lending market; interest rates soared from the Fed’s target rate of 2 percent to as high as 10 percent.

Why did the rate rise above the Fed’s suggested, and usually closely followed, rate? Simple answer: There was a cash crunch and banks were reluctant to lend cash. The repo market finances short-term loans, with the maturity usually lasting a day, a week or two, or no longer than a month. Banks make these intraday loans to each other to cover their reserve requirements set by the Federal Reserve at the end of each business day. The Fed stepped in because banks weren’t lending to each other, so the banks with too little cash in the vaults didn’t have enough to cover their debts and obligations.

Cue the market operations that began in September and which continued until 2020, only to be revived by a new round of repo recently. From September 2019 to the end of 2020, the Fed financed $500 billion in repo operations. By March 12, 2020, the Fed announced it would conduct $1.5 trillion in repo. On March 20, 2020, it announced it would be offering $1 trillion in daily repo loans until the end of the month. That’s a trillion with 12 zeros, every day. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that banks will be borrowing $1 trillion every day. But this limit is so large as to basically guarantee unfettered liquidity. 

In my September coverage, I rhetorically asked if a limit exists. The Fed is showing us very clearly that one does not exist.

QE4: Zero Rates, Zero Reserves, Zero F***s

Repos are loans. The money that the Fed lends out in open repo operations, theoretically, is paid back under the agreed timeframe and banks must issue collateral to receive these loans. If the banks don’t pay back the loan, then the Fed keeps the collateral.

Since repos are basically loans and trillions of dollars in repos take place regularly in the bank-to-bank lending market, some would say the Fed’s operations represent business as usual, don’t have an outsized impact and aren’t the same as printing money.

Then there’s the counterargument that these repos are basically subsidies reserved for a financial elite. And, of course, even if the money is loaned and paid back, the cash has to come from somewhere. This is why you might hear folks call repo operations “QE-lite.”

But QE-lite was not enough, apparently, so the Fed is going whole hog with QE4: its fourth quantitative easing action since 2008.

Quantitative easing, or QE, is the process by which a central bank prints new currency by expanding its balance sheet. In the U.S., the Fed prints cash and buys bonds from financial institutions to drive interest rates down. When you hear someone rave about the Fed printing money, this is what they mean.

The intended effect is to ease lending and boost spending. When the Federal Reserve prints fresh cash, it then buys up bonds and securities from banks and financial institutions for low rates to flood the system with liquidity. In 2008, this was done with 0.25 percent interest rates, which only rose to 2.5 percent again by 2018, in just enough time for it to come tumbling down again.

QE is the means by which the Fed controls this interest rate. Banks don’t have to comply with the Fed’s target rate (aka the fund rate), but why wouldn’t they? The Fed is guaranteeing cash at a certain interest rate, so Wall Street follows the lead and adjusts their own accordingly.

In this latest installment of QE, the Fed dropped the fund rate between 0 and 0.25 percent. In its announcement on March 15, 2020, the Fed promised $700 billion in fresh capital. On March 23, the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (one of the Fed’s primary bodies that oversees market operations) announced that it would be opening the floodgates for ceaseless QE: 

“The Federal Reserve will continue to purchase Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning and effective transmission of monetary policy to broader financial conditions,” according to a press release at the time.

Once again, it’s clear that a limit does not exist. On top of this, the Fed also announced that it is indefinitely dropping reserve requirements to zero. This was in a bid to, as ever, stimulate spending and lending. Banks already held fractions of their deposits on hand; now they are required to hold nothing at all, and this coincides with shrinking daily withdrawal limits at major U.S. banks.

The Endgame Is the Endgame

Proponents of QE will tell you that the system works; after all, it revived the economy after ’08, right? Look at how much the stock market boomed!

Indeed, and look, too, at the result: the worst Black Monday since 1987 and the U.S.’s major indices had three years of gains wiped out in a matter of weeks. This is the Ron Paul argument: that the Fed’s interventions are creating massive debt bubbles that precipitate ever-increasing disasters every decade or so. Ironically, the Fed was created to mitigate panics, but the anti-Fed argument, at least, has it that the Fed is creating more havoc than it resolves. 

But even if you don’t buy that argument, it’s hard to side with the argument that QE creates salubrious or, at best, null effects. The usual, state-friendly talking point is as follows: Banks will buy the bonds back from the Fed when they reach maturity, and the Fed will either destroy this cash to annul the value created on the original loan or keep it for a rainy day. It all works out in the wash, so best not to worry, so to speak.

There’s a lot of “stuff” in the wash, though, and it’s becoming harder to keep track of all the debt and make sure everything is laundered properly. Indeed, the problem with QE is the unwinding phase — that is, ticking interest rates up slowly, easing the purchases of Treasury bonds until the Fed stops printing more money and buying these assets.

We saw this in action recently as the Fed’s balance sheet began to shrink in late 2017. It didn’t drop much — it went from the $4.5 trillion range in 2017 to below $3.8 trillion in August 2019 — this after it ripped from under $1 trillion in 2008 to the highs it set as a result of the Fed’s aggressive monetary policy following the Great Recession.

The Fed balance sheet is just that — a balance sheet that lists total assets under management. Like all modern banks, this includes debt. So you can partly look at the Fed’s balance sheet as one big obligation: It has ballooned in recent years because of unfettered QE. And it’s growing exponentially still. Currently, the Fed’s balance sheet is over $4.6 trillion, and when we see the dust settle from current market operations, we may see it touch $10 trillion.

The Federal Reserve is dropping rates to zero and offering trillions in liquidity to the U.S. financial system. What is the Fed doing, and how does it work?
Total Assets Under The Federal Reserve’s Management: Source

The unwinding that is meant to “reset” markets to pre-QE intervention is a fantasy. The weight of debt and obligations is simply too much; the market cannot return to equilibrium before the Fed has to rush to the rescue and provide easy liquidity once again. 

With a fiscal stimulus promising checks to every American and bailouts to businesses all across the spectrum, the Federal Reserve will be working overtime for the foreseeable future. For now, the important thing to note is that central bank intervention is just beginning. The market was weak before COVID-19 compromised it further, and we likely won’t see the full economic impact of the virus for a few months as the ripples of layoffs and supply shocks rock the global economy. 

The Fed will continue to print, governments will bail out businesses, and central banks around the world will inch their systems closer to modern monetary theory (but more on that later).

We are witnessing a paradigm shift in centrally planned governments; specifically, the groundwork that is being laid today will shape how governments and their monetary arms interact with a country’s populace and its economy. The trend is leaning toward strong interventionism and unrestrained control, especially in regards to managing money.

After all, the limit doesn’t exist. They’ve told us this themselves on national TV more than once, and I think the reality is finally setting in for the average citizen: just look at how popular the “Money printer go brrr” has become. 

This is not by accident. Indeed, “money printer has gone brrr” for quite some time and will continue to go “brr” for some time more. Now, though, taxpayers are starting to hear it, some for the first time. 

The louder it gets, the more they will question what it is and how it works.

The post Zero Interest, Limitless Repo and QE4: The Federal Reserve’s Market Operations Explained appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Source: https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/zero-interest-limitless-repo-and-qe4-the-federal-reserves-market-operations-explained?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zero-interest-limitless-repo-and-qe4-the-federal-reserves-market-operations-explained

Blockchain

Santiment Reveals Top 10 Ethereum Projects by Developer Activity

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Despite record highs for network charges in February, development on some of the industry’s leading Ethereum based projects has continued unabated.

The research stated that development activity is an often-underrated indicator of project success. It demonstrates the ongoing commitment to creating a working product, continuously polishing and upgrading its features, and staying true to the long-term roadmap.

The research focused solely on pure ERC-20 projects that are currently committed to developing on Ethereum. It has used 30-day Github activity to track development status and action.

The Ethereum Project Top Ten

At the top of the list for developer activity in February is the decentralized prediction market platform Gnosis. Despite a 28% slide in GNO token prices for the second half of the month, the Gnosis team has been busy working on the product.

Gnosis launched on the xDai Ethereum sidechain, joined the Open DeFi alliance, and launched a new collaborative grants initiative for Gnosis Safe Apps last month.

Status was the second most developed Ethereum based project with a number of updates for the open source mobile dApp browser and messenger. SNT prices hit a three-year high of $0.125 in February.

Virtual metaverse and NFT protocol Decentraland was third in the list of developer activity with a number of features introduced to improve user experiences.

DeFi synthetic asset protocol UMA came in fourth with two main focuses for the month; getting some major protocols out the door, and there was a collaboration with BadgerDAO.

Coming in at number five for developer action was Chainlink which announced the official mainnet launch of Off-Chain Reporting (OCR). This significantly improves the efficiency of how data is computed across Chainlink oracles, reducing operating costs by up to 90%, it added.

“The most immediate benefit to DeFi and its users will be a 10x increase in the amount of real-world data that can be made available to smart contract applications.”

DeFi Dominates

These were the five most developed platforms in the Ethereum ecosystem for February 2021, and they were dominated by DeFi.

Also featuring in the top ten list was Skale Network, a decentralized modular cloud for running Ethereum-based dApps. MakerDAO, which is consistently in the top ten for development, was in seventh place.

Decentralized data exchange protocol Ocean, computing sharing economy Golem, and analytics platform Santiment itself rounded out the top ten.

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Source: https://cryptopotato.com/santiment-reveals-top-10-ethereum-projects-by-developer-activity/

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Blockchain

NEXT Chain: New Generation Blockchain With Eyes on the DeFi Industry

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[Featured Content]

The cryptocurrency industry is booming throughout the past year, and the increase in the total market capitalization is definitive proof.

The market is, at the time of this writing, valued at about $1.5 trillion. The same can be said about the DeFi industry. The total value locked in various protocols exceeds $39 billion, and the direction has been up only for quite some time.

However, this has also brought certain inefficiencies in different solutions, including Ethereum. Transaction fees on the network surge as it’s clogged by new participants. This is the reason we’ve seen plenty of alternative solutions being developed to tackle these issues.

NEXT chain is a new-generation blockchain that allows the tokenization of various assets, making them instantly tradeable at quick speeds and low fees.

What is NEXT Chain?

NEXT Chain is a blockchain that allows anyone to create and maintain their own digital assets in a manner that’s easy and rather similar to the ERC20 protocol standard running on Ethereum. All assets are tradeable directly as the team’s aim is to deliver transparent liquidity to existing and new projects.

The capabilities of the network include but are not limited to:

  • Issuing digital fungible assets such as bonds, stocks, and other securities
  • Creating non-fungible tokens (NFTs)
  • Creating and managing sovereign and decentralized identities
  • Design and run other types of arbitrary-complex smart contracts

It’s also worth noting that the blockchain is up and running since April 2019. It already has almost 200 master nodes, and, as the team reports, it doesn’t have a single failed transaction.

Additionally, the team aims to deliver the most profit for its community by taking advantage of different financial activities while also putting real-backed assets on-chain such as company stocks or commodities like gold, for example. It will also be connected to a fiat gateway, so there’s no middleman if the user decides to swap to EUR or USD, for instance.

The team has implemented a combination of Proof of Work and Proo of Stake consensus algorithms with master node validators acting as a Layer 2 technology. This allows the network to achieve high transactional throughput, typical of PoS networks, while also keeping the PoW principles to guarantee that miners calculate hashes with strong encryption.

Some of the advantages of these integrations include low transaction fees, high speeds, and scalability.

What Are the Benefits for Projects and Investors?

Teams are incentivized to build on NEXT Chain through a variety of different mechanisms, mainly through the capabilities of the blockchain itself.

They can create assets quickly and easily and also take advantage of crowdfunding opportunities. The transactions are quick, and the fees are comparatively lower. The team reports that the blockchain can handle up to 10,000 transactions per second (TPS) which is considerably more than Bitcoin or Ethereum’s chains.

On the other hand, investors can benefit from liquidity farming, staking rewards, master node rewards, mining, as well as from master node governance.

The NEXT Exchange

Another important part of NEXT’s ecosystem is the NEXT Exchange. It’s built on the proprietary blockchain, and it’s fueled by master nodes that allow it to reach a very high transactional throughput.

Each user retains full custody over their funds and gains access to their own private keys. It’s also worth noting that the team is building an alternative to Uniswap and PancakeSwap as the leading decentralized exchanges on Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain, respectively.

In addition to that, there are other initiatives that the project has in store, such as:

  • New and updated desktop wallet
  • Upgraded block explorer
  • A mobile app
  • Integrating smart contracts on NEXT chain
  • Atomic swaps
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Source: https://cryptopotato.com/next-chain-new-generation-blockchain-with-eyes-on-the-defi-industry/

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Blockchain

TRON’s First Cross-Chain Prediction Market Comes Through a Partnership with Prosper

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The popular blockchain project TRON will introduce the DLT-agnostic prediction market Prosper to its ecosystem. TRON users and TRX holders will be able to provide liquidity and enhance the success-rate of the prediction market solution.

TRON Teams Up With Prosper

Justin Sun’s TRON announced its latest partnership in a press release shared with CryptoPotato earlier today. It informed that the two blockchain projects have teamed up to address some of the issues related to decentralized prediction markets.

Such tools have been active for a while, but the statement highlighted the lack of sufficient liquidity as a major hurdle on their way to receive mass adoption. This comes mostly because each prediction market “has traditionally been segregated to a single chain,” and not enough users could provide the necessary liquidity to produce accurate predictions.

Prosper works similarly – the higher the liquidity is, meaning more users are involved, the more “predictions are made, leading to a more accurate and robust prediction outcome based on greater collective insight from the crowd.”

Furthermore, Prosper operates a cross-chain platform, which enables it to aggregate liquidity into its platform regardless of the user’s access point.

With the introduction of TRX, one of the largest digital assets by market cap, TRON and Prosper expect a surge in the liquidity to the underlying pool. Additionally, the integration will enable users to receive access to new applications that could impact their investment strategies and potential earnings.

The statement also touched upon a free insurance pool provided by Prosper. It allows the platform to repay any funds stolen from hacks from an emergency fund that is automatically set aside.

This partnership with TRON is an extension of Prosper’s efforts to collaborate with the biggest players of the DeFi world.” – said Iva Wisher, co-founder of Prosper.

TRON Aims at Ethereum

The announcement further explained that TRON is currently “working to create a competing DeFi ecosystem that rivals its counterparts while allowing for inexpensive transactions, creating a win-win situation for platform users.”

The PR outlined Ethereum’s major role in the space but touched upon its scaling issues, which have caused significant transaction delays and high gas costs.

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Source: https://cryptopotato.com/trons-first-cross-chain-prediction-market-comes-through-a-partnership-with-prosper/

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