Informing the public about the Federal Reserve
Is the Federal Reserve printing money in order to buy Treasury securities?
No. The term "printing money" often refers to a situation in which the central bank is effectively financing the deficit of the federal government on a permanent basis by issuing large amounts of currency. This situation does not exist in the United States. Global demand for Treasury securities has remained strong, and the Treasury has been able to finance large deficits without difficulty. In addition, U.S. currency has expanded at only a moderate pace in recent years, and the Federal Reserve has indicated that it will return its securities holdings to a more normal level over time, as the economy recovers and the current monetary accommodation is unwound.
Although Federal Reserve purchases of Treasury securities do not involve printing money, the increase in the Federal Reserve's holdings of Treasury securities is matched by a corresponding increase in reserve balances held by the banking system. The banking system must hold the quantity of reserve balances that the Federal Reserve creates.
Ordinarily, an increase in reserve balances in the banking system would push down current and expected future levels of short-term interest rates; such an action would serve to boost the economy and variables like bank lending and the money supply. If maintained for too long, a relatively high level of reserve balances and a low level of short-term interest rates could lead to the buildup of inflation pressures. However, with short-term interest rates already near zero, an increase in reserve balances by itself cannot push short-term interest rates much lower. As a result, the current elevated level of reserve balances has not generated an increase in inflation pressures. However, the Federal Reserve monitors inflation and inflation expectations carefully and is prepared to take appropriate actions to adjust policy so as to foster its dual mandate.