Fed's Powell: Don't expect any major changes to central bank's bond purchases

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell arrives prior to testifying before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on oversight of the Treasury Department's and Federal Reserve's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic response on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 22, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Pool/File Photo

(Reuters) - The Federal Reserve’s asset purchases succeeded in calming markets and supporting to the economy, and officials plan to keep buying at the current pace - not more, not less - for the foreseeable future, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Thursday.

The U.S. central bank is purchasing about $120 billion in bonds a month, including $80 billion in Treasury securities and $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities. Those bond purchases were ramped up in the spring to support market functioning after a large sell-off sparked by the coronavirus pandemic caused a liquidity freeze.

“This is a big program and it’s doing a lot of good,” Powell told reporters after the Fed announced that it is keeping interest rates steady at near zero and that it would continue buying bonds at the current pace. “We don’t expect that things will deteriorate, but nonetheless we have a habit of keeping things in place for a while.”

With markets now functioning smoothly, the asset purchases are also helping to support the economy as it climbs out of the recession caused by the virus, he said. Policymakers discussed ways to adjust the bond purchases if needed to provide more accommodation, but they do not think more help is needed at the moment, he said.

“Right now, we think this very large effective program is providing the right amount of support for the markets,” Powell said. “And so it continues.”

Reporting by Jonnelle Marte; Editing by Dan Grebler