The moves came as the markets for a variety of bonds — including usually easy-to-trade Treasuries — turned messier starting on Wednesday. Traders and strategists reported that markets were thin, and the gap between the prices buyers offered and those that sellers asked for was widening. At the same time, tremors had developed in funding markets, the plumbing of financial markets in which cash flows between banks, as fears over the coronavirus economic caused gyrations across Wall Street.
“These changes are being made to address highly unusual disruptions in Treasury financing markets associated with the coronavirus outbreak,” the New York Fed said in a statement.
Specifically, the central bank announced that it would offer $500 billion in a three-month repurchase operation Thursday afternoon. It also said that it would begin to buy government debt “across a range of maturities.” In recent months, it has been buying $60 billion a month only in short-term Treasury bills.
Analysts viewed the moves as warranted given funding constraints on Wall Street.
“This is a full-blown crisis response operation, intended to make it abundantly clear that the Fed will not allow liquidity to dry up,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a note.
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