June 2020

Macroeconomic Effects of Large-Scale Asset Purchases: New Evidence

Kyungmin Kim, Thomas Laubach, and Min Wei


We examine the macroeconomic effect of large-scale asset purchases (LSAPs) and forward guidance (FG) using a proxy structural VAR estimated on data through 2015, where the stance of the LSAP policy is measured using primary dealer expectations of the Federal Reserve's asset holdings. Monetary policy shocks are identified using instruments constructed from event study yield changes, and additional assumptions are employed to separately identify LSAP and FG shocks. We find that unexpected expansions in the Federal Reserve's asset holdings during the ZLB period between 2008 and 2015 had significant expansionary effects on the macroeconomy, with real activity and inflation rising and unemployment declining notably following the shock. The policy accommodation appears to be transmitted to the economy both through financial markets—including Treasury yields, credit spreads and equity prices—and through bank lending. The effects on Treasury yields and term premiums appear to be longer-lived than previously documented, while the effects on credit spreads and especially bank lending also appear persistent. These results appear fairly robust to alternative identification and econometric methodologies, alternative policy indicators and instruments, and controlling for any possible Federal Reserve information effect. A counterfactual analysis shows that absent the LSAP3 program implemented between late 2012 and 2014, CPI inflation would have been about 1 percentage point lower, while the unemployment rate would have been about 4 percentage points higher, by the end of 2015.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2020.047

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Last Update: June 17, 2020