WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve on Sunday lowered the discount rate it charges on direct loans to banks and announced a new lending program to provide credit to other big Wall Street firms, the latest in a series of moves to try to stabilize financial markets.
The Fed cut the discount rate to 3.25 percent from 3.5 percent, effective immediately, and said it would increase the maximum maturity of discount rate loans to 90 days from 30 days.
In a surprise statement, the central bank also said it had established a new facility, which will be operating on Monday, through which it will lend to all 20 primary dealers. Under its discount window, it can only lend to depository institutions.
The actions were taken in concert with a decision to approve special financing to facilitate the purchase of ailing investment bank Bear Stearns by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Under the deal, the Fed agreed to fund up to $30 billion of Bear Stearns’ less liquid assets.
The measures were the latest in a series of extraordinary steps taken by the Fed aimed at keeping a credit crisis triggered by rising mortgage defaults from spiraling out of control.
Following are previous steps the Fed has taken since August, when the credit crisis erupted:
March 14: The Fed says it authorized JPMorgan Chase to borrow at the discount window on behalf of Bear Stearns, an emergency move believed to have been last used in the Great Depression.
March 11: The Fed says it will accept a broader range of collateral, including home mortgages, in a new securities lending program meant to foster greater liquidity in financial markets. It says it would lend up to $200 billion to primary dealers, secured for 28 days, and accept federal agency home mortgage-backed securities and highly rated private mortgage-backed securities as collateral.
The action was coordinated with steps by the Bank of Canada, Bank of England, European Central Bank and Swiss National Bank. The Fed also increased existing currency swap lines with the ECB and SNB to up to $30 billion and $6 billion, respectively, and extended the term of those lines through September to help those central banks provide dollar liquidity in their markets.
March 7: The Fed says it will inject $100 billion into the banking system by increasing the size of its two term auctions of short-term funding and start a series of term repurchase transactions with primary dealers expected to be worth another $100 billion.
It also says it will continue to conduct term auction facility auctions, or TAF auctions, for at least the next six months, unless market conditions render them unnecessary, and increase auction sizes if conditions warrant.
February 29: Fed announces two TAF auctions of $30 billion each in March. It says it intends to conduct auctions for as long as necessary to address elevated pressures in short-term funding markets.
February 1: Fed announces it will continue biweekly TAF auctions in February, holding the amount in each auction steady at $30 billion. The central bank lowers the minimum bid size to $5 million from $10 million to include smaller institutions.
January 30: Fed cuts its target overnight funds rate half a percentage point to 3 percent and lowered its discount rate by a matching amount to 3.5 percent, citing considerable strains in financial markets and a deepening of the housing contraction.
January 22: Fed, in highly unusual emergency rate cut, lowers the overnight funds rate three-quarters of a percentage point to 3.5 percent citing weakening economic outlook and increasing downside risks to growth. Discount rate cut by same amount to 4 percent.
January 3: The Fed raises TAF auction amounts to $30 billion from $20 billion for each of the two auctions in January. The European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank also offer dollar funds in conjunction with the Fed auctions.
December 12, 2007: As part of a global coordinated central bank effort, the Fed establishes the TAF to provide funds over a longer period to a wider range of banks to meet temporary shortages of funds.
The Fed also establishes foreign exchange swap lines with the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank. The arrangements will provide up to $20 billion for the ECB and $4 billion for the SNB. The Fed says the swap lines will exist for up to six months.
December 11: Fed cuts overnight rates a quarter percentage point to 4.25 percent, sounds cautious note on slowing growth and housing while warning on inflation.
November 26, 2007: The Fed promises more than the usual year-end liquidity and says it will lift limits on how much can be lent to any one bank. It says it will also provide sufficient reserves to stem upward pressure on the federal funds rate.
October 31: Fed cuts its overnight target rate a quarter percentage point to 4.5 percent. It notes solid third quarter growth and easing in financial market strains. Fed says its action should help forestall adverse conditions in the broader economy amid persistent risks to inflation. Discount rate also trimmed a quarter percentage point to 5 percent.
September 18: Fed cuts rates a half percentage point to 4.75 percent, warning that the tightening of credit conditions had the potential to intensify the housing correction.
August 17, 2007: The Fed cuts the discount rate by a half percentage point, says it is monitoring the situation and prepared to act as needed to offset adverse effects on the economy arising from disruptions in financial markets.
August 10, 2007: In a rare statement, the Fed says banks were experiencing unusual funding needs because of dislocations in money and credit markets and that it would provide funds as needed.
August 7: Fed holds its overnight federal funds rate unchanged at 5.25 percent, noting that although financial markets have been volatile and the housing correction is ongoing, the economy seems likely to continue to expand at a moderate pace over coming quarters.
Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Walker Simon
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