"The big picture answer is that the repo market is broken," said James Bianco, founder of Bianco Research in Chicago, in an interview with MarketWatch. "They are essentially medicating the market into submission," he said. "But this is not a long-term solution."

This chart shows the more than $320 billion of total repo market support from the Fed since Sept. 17, when for the central bank began pumping in daily liquidity after overnight lending rates jumped to almost 10% from nearly 2%.


The goal was to keep banks flush as they deal with month-end funding issues, corporate tax payments, and the deluge of Treasury debt being sold by the federal government to fund its deficit.

Shortly thereafter, former New York Fed markets group head Brian Sack, now director of global economics at hedge fund D.E. Shaw Group, coauthored an article saying that the Fed could get a better control of overnight rates if it were to boost banking system reserves by purchasing $250 billion of Treasury debt.

But the Fed's total support already has eclipsed that threshold with the expansion of daily operations, the introduction of longer-term loans, and its balance sheet expansion through monthly T-bill purchases.

"This is now far bigger than anyone thought this was going to be," Bianco said. "I think they're hoping the market will magically fix itself. I don't see why it would.


"The Fed really hasn't figured out the problem," said Bryce Doty, a senior portfolio manager at Sit Fixed Income in Minneapolis. "But they kind of have created their own problem."

By that, Doty meant the Fed's rescue operations have worked in terms of supplying banks with quick and cheap funding, but less so when it comes to luring them back to funding each other.

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