The Federal Reserve on Thursday set up new loan programs and bolstered existing ones in an effort to provide $2.3 trillion in support for the economy essentially shut down due to the coronavirus.
In a statement, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank is trying to “provide as much relief and stability as we can” during this period where Americans are staying at home to stop the spread of the pandemic.
The U.S. Treasury Department is providing critical support for the programs, set up using the central bank’s powers to fight emergencies.
The cornerstone of today’s actions is a new $600 billion “Main Street Lending Fund” to offer support for small and mid-sized businesses who will have to pay between 2.5% to 4% above the secured overnight funding rate, which stands at zero.
The plan is to offer 4 -year loans to companies, with principal and interest payments deferred for one year. The loans will be originated by banks, who will retain a 5% share and sell the rest to the Fed’s facility.
Another facility set up Thursday will purchase up to $500 billion of short-term notes directly from states, counties and cities, though the Fed said details on the cost of borrowing will be released later.
The Fed stopped short of setting up a facility to buy muni-bonds from the market, saying only that it would continue to “closely monitor” that market. This suggests the Fed may act in the sector in the future.
Krishna Guha, a forrmer Fed staffer and now vice chairman of Evercore Financial, said he thought the Fed wasn’t done.
“Both the Fed’s repeatedly escalating credit market actions and chair Powell’s comments in a Brookings webcast today send a clear signal that if what was announced today is not enough the Fed will come back with more,” Guha said, in a note to clients.
The Fed expanded another facility to begin to buy highly rated new issues of collateralized loan obligations and commercial mortgage-backed securities.
The U.S. central bank’s facility buying corporate bonds will also now buy debt from sub investment-grade issuers, or “junk”-rated companies, as long as they were rated as investment-grade a day before the Fed’s programs were first announced on March 23. Another facility could also buy exchange-traded funds holding such debt.
The Fed’s aid to the below investment-grade market could help alleviate concerns that large companies downgraded due to an economic downturn would not receive support from the Fed.
In markets, the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.21% and Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.58% rallied on the Fed’s announcement, helping to offset jobless claims data showing Americans filing for unemployment benefits had surged by 6.6 million last week.
The boost in investor sentiment helped to take yields off their lows, with the rate for the 10-year Treasury note /zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD10Y -3.74% trading flat at 0.76% on Thursday.