Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said on Wednesday that the central bank could potentially expand its Treasury bill purchasing program, if necessary, to include shorter-term coupon-bearing securities, while speaking in a news conference after the Fed said it would hold rates steady at 1.5% to 1.75%. Powell said that, for now, the Treasury’s current pace of bill purchases of $60 billion per month was sufficient. The buying began in October and will continue through at least the second quarter of next year. The moves are intended to inject reserves back into the financial system, which may have held back banks from lending their funds freely to cash-starved market participants. As the central bank raises the level of reserves next year, the volume of the Fed’s repo operations should shrink, said Powell. He also added the central bank could tweak the current repo operations to prevent a recurrence of stresses in short-term funding markets.
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