1. Explain how interest rates decline following major Fed purchases of mortgage-backed securities.
The FED implements quantitative easing by buying financial assets of longer maturity, e.g., mortgage-backed securities, from commercial banks and other private institutions in order to inject a pre-determined quantity of money into the economy. This is a means of stimulating the economy and lowering longer-term interest rates further out on the yield curve; quantitative easing increases the excess reserves of the banks, and raises the prices of the financial assets bought, which lowers their yield. Graphically, this can be explained with the aid of Figure below. The supply of money is shifted from point 1 to the right (MS1 to MS2) and, all else equal, the new equilibrium point (with aggregate money demand curve) is at point 2, where the interest rate is lower.
Quantity of Money
2. What could be the implications of lower interest rates for households and businesses?
By implanting the policy of purchasing mortgage-backed securities, the FED has set its sight on increasing consumption and investment, which will ultimately increase employment. As described in question one Bernanke’s policy decreased interest rates to new record lows, encouraging borrowing for both businesses and households. The ability to borrow money at more attractive rates stimulates investment in durable consumer goods, such as automobiles, and in operational necessities such as buildings and capital equipment for businesses. Indeed, after the implementation of the policy mortgage applications increased significantly.
Because of low interest rates households and businesses as investors could shift their preference away from bonds and into stocks. According to frbsf.org, the increase in stock trading volume has the effect of raising the value of existing stock portfolios, which in turn stimulates consumer and spending across the country due to the psychological effects of rapid capital appreciation. Lower interest rates can have negative effects on the value of the local currency compared to other currencies. As foreign investors dump their local-denominated investments in favor of more profitable currencies, exchange rates can shift to the detriment of the local currency. The weakening of the local currency serves to increase the attractiveness of local goods to foreign purchasers, which has the effect of boosting exports and international sales. All of the factors mentioned above have the combined effect of increasing productive output, or GDP, and increasing employment across a wide range of industries. As individuals, businesses and foreign investors are encouraged to spend more due to increased access to capital, higher portfolio valuations and weaker currency values, businesses in nearly every sector experience an increase in sales, often requiring them to grow their operations and employ additional labor. However, there are some negative implications from this policy. Without a strong commitment to control inflation over the long run, the risk of higher inflation is one potential implication of experiencing real interest rates below the economy’s natural interest rate. Low interest rates provide a powerful incentive to spend rather than save. In the short term, this may not matter much, but over a longer period, low interest rates penalize savers and those who rely heavily on interest income. If short-term interest rates are low relatively to long-term rates, households and firms may overinvest in long-term assets, such as Treasury securities. If interest rates rise unexpectedly, the value of those assets will fall (bond prices and yields move in opposite directions), exposing investors to substantial losses. Finally, low short-term interest rates reduce the profitability of money market funds, which are key providers of short-term credit for many (large)...