On December 31 we demonstrated the biggest operation in the history of the Fed's temporary open market operations: a $198 billion reverse repo under its brand new fixed-rate scheme, which, at least according to the Fed, was supposed to be a mechanism designed to prepare the market for the "normalization" of the Fed's balance sheet and allow seamless liquidity extraction. What the Fed did not announce was that it was also the biggest collateral window-dressing scheme ever conceived (that there was $200 billion in free liquidity sloshing around was a distant second highlight).
What we said then was that "We will leave it up to readers to decide what is more surreal: that the Fed is allowing banks to "window dress" to the tune of several times more than total Treasury holdings owned by the Primary Dealers as disclosed by the Fed, or that there is an unprecedented $200 billion in free liquidity floating out there."
Well, if what happened in the last days of 2013 was indeed merely reverse repo-assisted window dressing, then we would expect the that first days of 2014 should see a comparable collapse in the magnitude of the Fed's reverse repo operations. Sure enough, as the chart below shows, this is precisely what has happened following today's far more modest $56.7 billion reverse repo operation conducted among 50 bidding counterparties and the Fed, of course.
In short: collateral window dressing on; collateral window dressing off, all with the blessing of the banks' overarching regulator, the Federal Reserve. What is most disturbing is that both the world's largest financial firms, and by implication the Fed, just admitted there is a massive collateral shortage currently if banks are forced to pad their books to the tune of nearly $200 billion in "high quality collateral" just to pass year-end auditor muster.
And a tangent: in the past two days, the Fed has first withdrawn and subsequently re-injected a record $140 billion in liquidity, or nearly two months' worth of post-taper POMO. One may be tempted to wonder just where it is that these hundreds of billions in fungible electronic monetary equivalents have ended up...