Reverse Repo Failure Confirmation, Primary Dealers Want Exemption From Tier One Capital Requirements To Do Reverse Repos

Tyler Durden's picture

A few weeks ago we speculated that the Federal Reserve's attempt to conduct a reverse repo test as part of a liquidity drainage failed. In a stunning piece of news, Zero Hedge friend Jim Bianco sent us the following. Little commentary is necessary: the banks are about to unleash the massive leverage ploy all over again, this time with the pretext that they are happy to soak up liquidity, yet in the same time, their stupidity and inability to gauge risk will blow up the financial system once again when Tier One ratios for dealers are allowed to go back to 100:1. Zero Hedge will forward this information to all of our correspondents in Washington as what the Primary Dealer community is doing is extortion, pure and simple, and it is likely to be endorsed by their cronies at the Federal Reserve (which, in turn, has already received a carte blanche to do so by its purported master, Goldman Sachs).

Today, Steve Beckner wrote the following.  We include the entire story with our highlights in red (more comments below the story).

–Fed Debating Need for Reserve Draining vs. Interest on Reserves

By Steven K. Beckner

After growing somewhat frustrated with the feasibility of doing large-scale reverse repurchase agreements with non-traditional counterparties, the Federal Reserve has begun to focus more on doing these reserve-draining operations with the primary dealer community when the time comes, Market News International understands.

The Fed has been informed by dealers that they would be willing to enter into very sizable amounts of reverse repos with the Fed, if asked to do so, provided they could get some relief from Tier I capital constraints, MNI also understands.

No decision has been made about employing reverse repos and/or other tools as part of an “exit strategy” from quantitative easing. The timing and trigger is still a matter or study and debate, which continued at the Nov. 3-4 Federal Open Market Committee meeting.There is known to be disagreement as to how much it will be necessary to reduce excess reserves through reverse repos, asset sales or other means in order ultimately to tighten credit and normalize interest rates.

Some officials believe that the Fed’s payment of interest on excess reserves will suffice to accomplish the purpose, contending that if the Fed can effectively raise interest rates the amount of reserves is not that important.

Others put more emphasis on the need to shrink the balance sheet and reduce reserves and the monetary base. And there are those who believe that some mixture of the two approaches will be required, but there is no agreement on the appropriate weight that should be given to interest on reserves and reserve draining at this time.

Reverse repos, in which the Fed sells securities with an agreement to buy them back at a slightly higher price at a later date, have been used by the Fed in the past and have been under discussion for months.

For example, on April 3, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed “can conduct reverse repurchase agreements against its long-term securities holdings to drain bank reserves or, if necessary, it could choose to sell some of its securities.”

Unlike asset sales, reverse repos would not necessarily reduce the size of the balance sheet or extinguish reserves on a permanent basis.

But as a practical matter, the Fed could continuously roll over the reverse repos until the underlying asset matures, thereby effectively making a permanent reserve drain.
Some officials believe the Fed need not resort to large reverse repos or asset sales, arguing that its ability to pay interest on excess reserves will set a floor under the federal funds rate and also enable the Fed to disincentivize banks from lending the reserves into the economy if necessary.

For example, San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen, an FOMC voter, said recently that “paying interest on reserves is of itself a completely adequate tool to tighten monetary conditions.” Others feel the same way.

But there is doubt among FOMC members and Fed staff whether interest on reserves will be completely adequate given the failure of that program so far to keep the funds rate from trading below target.

What’s more, even though shorter-term Fed liquidity facilities have been shrinking due to less demand, longer term asset purchases promise to continue expanding the balance sheet. This has raised concern among other Federal Reserve presidents who argue that the Fed needs to manage down the size of reserves and the monetary base.

And so the Fed has been looking closely at using other tools to drain or immobilize reserves. Reverse repos have been a particular focus of advance preparation.

On Oct. 19, the New York Fed confirmed that it “has been working internally and with market participants on operational aspects of reverse repos to ensure that this tool will be ready when and if the Federal Open Market Committee decides they should be used.”

And it said “the focus of recent work has been to expand our existing capability to conduct reverse repos with Primary Dealers to include ‘triparty’ settlement. This has involved working with the triparty clearing banks and Primary Dealers to implement the necessary changes and updates.”

“We have recently begun testing this capability with all involved parties and systems, and it is likely that the Federal Reserve will engage in additional tests in the future,” the New York Fed said.

The New York Fed statement also raised “the possibility of expanding the set of counterparties the Desk might employ for conducting reverse repos beyond the Primary Dealers.”

After initially hoping to be able to do a sufficient quantity of reverse repos with the dealer community, the New York Fed found it necessary to cast a wider net and entered into discussions with money market funds and government sponsored enterprises as potential counterparties.

But Market News understands that the technical and legal challenges of transacting with such non-traditional counterparties has proven somewhat daunting, leading the Fed to return its focus more on the dealer community.

When the Fed sells securities to the dealers as part of a reverse repurchase agreement, it has the effect of reducing their capital to asset ratio below regulatory minimums, limiting the amount of reverse repos the dealers are able or willing to do.

But if the Fed and other bank regulators were willing to grant an exemption from Tier One capital requirements for the reverse repos, the Fed has been informed that the dealers would be willing to do much more than they originally said — perhaps up to $1 trillion.

The Fed is said to be very receptive.


This is the first confirmation that we have read that the reverse repo test was a failure.  So, what does it mean?

Back on October 21 we also said:

[T]he Federal Reserve wants everyone to believe they have the entire process under control and they are completely capable of starting the exit strategy when if/ready. A problem with reverse repos would leave the impression that the Federal Reserve has no exit strategy and give inflation hawks fodder to believe the Federal Reserve would keep liquidity in the system too long and ignite inflation.

Let us underscore our comments with stronger language.  This entire reverse repo exercise is a diversion.  It’s purpose is to make it look like Federal Reserve staffers are busy running around “managing” monetary policy and readying for the exit strategy.  This is nothing but kabuki theater.  Now the Federal Reserve is trying to continue the rouse by suspending capital requirements with the dealers.  In other words, the dealers will accept collateral from the Federal Reserve so long as capital constraints do not get in the way of their current positions.

So, just as the outrage of the dealers leveraging 40:1 to help blow up the financial system isdying down, the Fed is “receptive” to allowing the dealers to leverage 40:1 all over again.

Will this happen?  Our guess is no.  It is more of the same … an exercise to keep everyone busy so it appears they have a plan and are busy working on it.  In reality the Federal Reserve seems to have no plan to start the exit strategy anytime soon, in fact maybe not for years.


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curbyourrisk's picture

The FED is so screwed!

SV's picture

A slow motion EPIC FAIL in progress...

Mad Max's picture

This would be HILARIOUS, except for suggesting the likelihood of the collapse of the US (economically if not otherwise).  Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

Anonymous's picture

what slow motion, its an all out war against the country by its president...

Anonymous's picture

The FED is fine. It is the US way of life that is in danger.

Anonymous's picture

The FED is fine. It is the US way of life that is in danger.

Anonymous's picture

...and so are all of us except the squid.

Anonymous's picture

They started this path of easy credit in 1982. It is too late to reverse it. They passed the point of no return long time ago.

Fed is like a boulder rolling down the hill. The longer is keeps rolling, the faster it rolls. The end is when it blows up into pieces.

Anonymous's picture

The primary dealer model is completely outdated. Especially since the primary dealers all needed the TARP funds, and almost blew up the world. Now we are back to the argument that the primary dealers are the only ones smart enough, solvent enough, and responsible enough to trade with the Fed? C'mon, open it up, put this stuff on Craigslist. You would at least get a fairer market.

MikeNYC's picture

Purported master? I think you meant "Puppet master"

P Rankmug's picture

Our entire economic market system is based on trying to guess what a handful of individuals, acting in God knows who's interest, may or may not do for reasons no one can discern.  What a joke of a disaster.

Anonymous's picture


Can I use your quote elsewhere?

Mad Max's picture

Outstanding concise summary.

Cursive's picture

That was good, really good.


TD, can we get this stickied or perma-posted somewhere?

Anonymous's picture

The current situation has no exit. Only the fat cats know what the end game is.

economessed's picture

Congratulations on being a member of the 0.0001% club.  That's the percentage of the American population that comprehends the implications of this disaster-a-palooza.

I'll remind everyone that the Federal Reserve prints "In God We Trust" on the currency.  That's not just a catchy phrase -- it's the full description of their strategy at this point.

Sec.NotSure's picture

I'll remind everyone that the Federal Reserve prints "In God We Trust" on the currency.  That's not just a catchy phrase -- it's the full description of their strategy at this point.


LOL ... +1

BlueStreak's picture

That one is so good I'm printing it and posting it on my wall.

Don Smith's picture

This is my new status on FB.  LOL!

Anonymous's picture

Goldman got 200 swine flue vaccines for its employees. Nearby hospital got 200 shots for the public. Hospital is upset with the unfair treatment.
More here

E pluribus unum's picture

Looks like a certain hospital is going to find all their bonds due on Monday morning

Mad Max's picture

More of the "it would be so funny if it weren't so close to f'ing true..."

Anonymous's picture

Wish I had a moment or two with little vials.

Anonymous's picture

and when the excess leverage blows up (again), the taxpayer will be totally on the hook while GS somehow manages to remain immune. Time to write congress (again).

Anonymous's picture

So is hyperinflation in the cards if the Fed doesn't reduce the liquidity in the banking system?

Mad Max's picture

It depends on how the economy moves, if the govt can keep borrowing from foreign governments, and on a bunch of other things.

If I had a loud tv show named something like "Insane Money" I would be telling people to put all their money in 10, 20, even 30-year certificates of deposit paying 1.00% interest with a prohibition on early withdrawal.

waterdog's picture

"This is the first confirmation that we have read that the reverse repo test was a failure. So, what does it mean?"

It means that the Fed should require every bank with excess reserves to place a large bet on the win, place, show ticket for the Nascar Texas race this weekend. Given the probablity that the outcome of the Talladega race last Sunday was 10,000 to 1, they should lose billions if it happens again this Sunday.

If my luck does not change soon, I am going to have to get a job.

bonddude's picture

This should make long rates jump.

Shouldn't stop stock and and commodity markets in their tracks? I Think so.

digalert's picture

aint no repo gonna happen. why? cause the stimulation worked, banks are stabilized, employment is under control...could go on and on. Oblame said we're saved from the clink brink, bubble Ben has worked magic and turbo Timmy would look good with a fro.

ot, what's sheila up to this afternoon?

PD Quig's picture

The TV in the gym locker room was blaring a commercial:

"Are you facing an IRS audit? Have you not filed income tax returns for several years?"

Someone on the other side of the room drolly added, "Are you in the Obama Administration?"

I was the only one that laughed, and when I looked up a few folks were glaring at me. The lefties are a weeee bit touchy right now in Karlifornia.

chunkylover42's picture

aaaaaannnnnnnd the Fed looks longingly towards the money market funds......

Anonymous's picture

Janet Yellen - microbrain. I hope there is a nice cell in the seventh ring of Hell reserved for her.

Hephasteus's picture

"But as a practical matter, the Fed could continuously roll over the reverse repos until the underlying asset matures, thereby effectively making a permanent reserve drain.
Some officials believe the Fed need not resort to large reverse repos or asset sales, arguing that its ability to pay interest on excess reserves will set a floor under the federal funds rate and also enable the Fed to disincentivize banks from lending the reserves into the economy if necessary."


This is PRECISELY WHAT russia tried in 1998.


Mad Max's picture

And, uh, how DID that work out for Russia in 1998?


Anonymous's picture

Right. This plan of paying interest on reserves is beyond desperate; it means that the monetary base keeps expanding---with the goal of containing inflation! That is the very definition of a positive feedback loop; a monetary supernova.

Mad Max's picture

Since supernovae are the source of all gold and other heavy metals (heavier than iron) in existence, could The Fed be on the verge of an incredible Grand Unified Fiatsco of physics, monetary policy and alchemy?

Mark Beck's picture

I would think, the yield of the reverse repo would have to be greater than the market rate, or there would have to be a discount on the bond, or a sweetener like reduced reserve requirement. But the borrowed money would have to be exchanged at some point for the bond before it matures, in a repurchase agreement, with prearranged terms. Perhaps this is a way to shift long term 5Y to 30Y instruments owned by the FED, into short term plays.

Anonymous's picture

Why can't they just use Ebay?

par068's picture

It all makes sense now. If I can stay solvent for about two more

years, I will likely be a millionaire. 


Anonymous's picture

Found on the internet:

"...assuming that the Fed will, in fact, choose to execute these operations because it has stated that they are part of the exit strategy policy, I think the alleged Primary Dealers’ balance sheet capacity constraint has been VASTLY exaggerated. It’s true that a Reverse Repo increases the assets of a broker-dealer entity, but this is an issue only for stand-alone broker-dealers (Jeffreys and alike). For Primary Dealers with big commercial banks operations (JPM, Citi, BOA) I don’t believe that this is an issue at all: since they are already sitting on big amounts of Excess Reserves and because 23A (which regulates the activity between a bank entity and its affiliates) does not impose any restriction on the amount of UST, Agencies and Agencies MBS repos that a bank can execute with an affiliate broker-dealer entity, this means that the JPMs of the world could potentially execute reverse repo operations with the Fed up to the amount of excess reserves they are already sitting on without increasing their balance sheet by 1 single cent: it would simply be a transformation of an asset (excess reserves of the bank entity) into another (reverse repo of the broker-dealer entity). So, in my view, the conclusion has to be that the Primary Dealers can in fact absorb a much bigger amount of Reverse Repo than originally thought even by the Fed itself and that realistically the only other counterparties that the Fed might engage directly for these kind of operations are the GSEs: but in this case the reason would not be balance sheet driven but would be driven by the distortion that the GSEs’ participation in the fed funds mkt creates..."

Hephasteus's picture

The first thing the fed did when it got it's mitts on the 700 billion dollars was take a 100 billion and fractionally reserve it out to a trillion. All those excess reserves out there lead back to the FED and It's faking and lying it's ass off. All it takes is a UNIVERSAL or nearly UNIVERSAL 10 percent loan loss rate for our ENTIRE system to crumble.

Credit Cards- Check

Mortgages- Check

Commercial Real Estate- Check

Check and MATE. And not in the good way. With a homemade 80 grit sandpaper condom.






Anonymous's picture

Who ever wrote this clearly has a very good understanding of the process and the primary dealer balance sheet implications. It's a pity that ZH has not picked up on these facts. Clearly, the primary dealers can be strong armed into the reverse repo operations IF the Fed wishes to do so, without the need to give Tier 1 "exemption", which seems to be making a big come back as a risk indicator - was it only 9 months ago that TCE was the talk of the town? My guess is that theoretically the Fed should be able to reduce the impact of excess reserves through reverse repo and paying interest on the reserves, and not having to sell TSYs into the open market. The big question is do they have the balls to do it in a timely manner, and ensure that the PDs participate. I for one expect them top blow it.

Anonymous's picture

Now if only the Fed had the guts to call the banks bluff (i.e., raise Fed funds rate).......