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Monday, October 29, 2007

WTF Happened to the Federal Funds Rate?

Hat tip to Ticker Sense for noticing the ominous spike in the Fed Funds rate on 10/25/07 to 15%. The data is here.

“Last week some $75 million of "fed funds" (that is, interbank overnight credit) was transacted at a rate of 15%, and "a bunch" went through in the low to mid 7s.

No, I didn't mistype that. You can find the actual data at this link.

Originally I, and everyone else, assumed that the "high" was an error. A bad print. That there was no chance this was "real".

It was. Yes, "EFF" (effective fedfunds) was right where "it should be" according to The Fed - across all transactions.

Now let's think about this one for a minute here folks.

"Someone" transacted a $75 million overnight loan that they needed to meet reserve requirements at an absolutely outrageous interest rate - about what you pay for credit card money. A bunch of "someone else's" transacted a bunch at 7-7.5%.

They had the discount window available to them at 50 bips of penalty to EFF, which is a direct overnight loan from The Fed, but didn't use it.

Are you going to try to tell me that some banks actually paid nearly 10% more as an interest rate than they had to?

On what planet are we having this discussion?

There is only one possible explanation for this particular behavior - The Fed would not take the alleged "collateral" these institutions tried to put up, and the market didn't think it was worth much either, even on an overnight basis, and as such "the market" priced the interest rate similar to how Guido would for your "short-term" loan!

This raises the spectre of something truly terrifying in the credit markets –

The Fed may be inches away from losing control over the FF Rate entirely!”

As of yet, I have no idea how serious these developments are and will be doing research on the matter. I hope to follow up with a more detailed post after market close.