Fed balance sheet increases to record $5.86 trillion

FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis -/File Photo

(Reuters) - The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet increased to a record $5.86 trillion this week and the central bank reported greater use of some of its newly launched liquidity facilities, all part of its efforts to keep markets functioning smoothly amid heightened volatility related to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the three weeks since the Fed’s effort to limit the economic damage from the outbreak kicked into overdrive, the central bank’s balance sheet has mushroomed by roughly $1.5 trillion. It is now the equivalent of a quarter or more of the size of the U.S. economy before the crisis struck, and will certainly grow larger in the weeks ahead as the Fed keeps piling on assets and the economy likely shrinks.

The central bank continued to snap up Treasury securities, mortgage bonds and other assets, according to data released on Thursday. The Fed’s holdings of mortgage-backed securities increased to $1.46 trillion from $1.38 trillion. Treasury holdings rose to $3.34 trillion from $2.98 trillion.

Use of the Fed’s central bank liquidity swap lines, which allow foreign central banks to exchange their local currency for dollars, rose to $348.5 billion Wednesday from $206.1 billion the previous week.

Loan balances for the Fed’s discount window, its last resort lending program, dropped slightly to $43.7 billion on Wednesday from $50.8 billion a week ago.

Loans with the Fed’s primary dealer credit facility rose to $33.1 billion Wednesday from $27.7 billion the previous week. Use of the money market mutual fund liquidity facility increased to $52.7 billion from $30.6 billion the week before.

Reporting by Dan Burns and Jonnelle Marte; Editing by Sandra Maler and Lisa Shumaker