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Evidence on the portfolio balance channel of quantitative easing


  • Daniel L. Thornton


With its interest rate instrument at the zero lower bound, the Federal Open Market Committee has turned to unconventional methods to stimulate economic growth and increase employment. Prominent among these is quantitative easing (QE)—the purchase of a large quantity of longer-term debt. Policymakers and analysts have argued that QE works through the so-called portfolio balance channel: it reduces long-term yields by reducing the term premium investors require to hold long-dated securities. I present several reasons to be skeptical of the theoretical foundations of this portfolio balance channel and offer several arguments for why the effect of QE might be relatively small even if it is theoretically valid. Consistent with these arguments, an empirical analysis using a variety of interest rate variables and public debt supply measures used in the literature finds essentially no support for the portfolio balance channel.>

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  • Daniel L. Thornton, 2012. "Evidence on the portfolio balance channel of quantitative easing," Working Papers 2012-015, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2012-015

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Johannes C. Stroebel & John B. Taylor, 2009. "Estimated Impact of the Fed's Mortgage-Backed Securities Purchase Program," NBER Working Papers 15626, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Thornton, Daniel L., 2005. "Tests of the expectations hypothesis: Resolving the anomalies when the short-term rate is the federal funds rate," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(10), pages 2541-2556, October.
    3. Joyce, Michael & Lasaosa, Ana & Stevens , Ibrahim & Tong, Matthew, 2010. "The financial market impact of quantitative easing," Bank of England working papers 393, Bank of England.
    4. Eric T. Swanson, 2011. "Let's Twist Again: A High-Frequency Event-study Analysis of Operation Twist and Its Implications for QE2," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 42(1 (Spring), pages 151-207.
    5. Arvind Krishnamurthy & Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2011. "The Effects of Quantitative Easing on Interest Rates: Channels and Implications for Policy," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 42(2 (Fall)), pages 215-287.
    6. Daniel L. Thornton & Giorgio Valente, 2010. "Predicting bond excess returns with forward rates: an asset-allocation perspective," Working Papers 2010-034, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    7. Hancock, Diana & Passmore, Wayne, 2011. "Did the Federal Reserve's MBS purchase program lower mortgage rates?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(5), pages 498-514.
    8. Kool, Clemens J. M. & Thornton, Daniel L., 2004. "A note on the expectations hypothesis at the founding of the Fed," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(12), pages 3055-3068, December.
    9. Michael D. Bauer & Glenn D. Rudebusch, 2014. "The Signaling Channel for Federal Reserve Bond Purchases," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 10(3), pages 233-289, September.
    10. Christopher J. Neely, 2010. "The large scale asset purchases had large international effects," Working Papers 2010-018, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    11. Massimo Guidolin & Daniel L. Thornton, 2010. "Predictions of short-term rates and the expectations hypothesis," Working Papers 2010-013, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
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    Cited by:

    1. Herrenbrueck, Lucas, 2014. "Quantitative Easing and the Liquidity Channel of Monetary Policy," MPRA Paper 70686, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 10 Apr 2016.
    2. Chadha, Jagjit S. & Waters, Alex, 2014. "Applying a macro-finance yield curve to UK quantitative Easing," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 68-86.
    3. Alexandros Kontonikas & Charles Nolan & Zivile Zekaite, 2015. "Always and Everywhere Inflation? Treasuries Variance Decomposition and the Impact of Monetary Policy," Working Papers 2015_17, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.

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    Monetary policy - United States ; Economic conditions;

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