July 16, 2020 / 3:15 PM / 23 days ago

NY Fed's Williams says low take-up of emergency lending facilities a sign of success

FILE PHOTO: John Williams, Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, speaks at an event in New York, U.S., November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

(Reuters) - The emergency lending facilities set up by the Federal Reserve helped to ease credit markets after they were disrupted by the pandemic, and relatively low usage of the programs is a sign that markets are functioning well, New York Fed president John Williams said Thursday.

The central bank had to take an innovative approach when responding to markets to help keep credit flowing to households and businesses, reviving some programs used during the 2008 financial crisis but also establishing new ones, Williams said during a webinar.

“The scale and reach of the response is an indication of the gravity and unique nature of the situation we are facing,” Williams said.

While some of the programs have not been heavily used, Williams said that is a positive sign because it means that credit remains available.

“This is in fact a measure of success — the existence of the facilities, even in a backstop role, has helped boost confidence to the point where borrowers are able to access credit from the private market at affordable rates,” he said.

The Fed moved quickly to support the economy in March as the coronavirus spread across the globe by cutting interest rates to near zero and setting up a slew of emergency lending facilities. Asked about the Fed’s plan for unwinding those programs, Williams said policymakers are more focused on the crisis.

“I don’t think today is the time to be focused on exit strategies, we’re still in the middle of a very difficult situation,” Williams said.

The Fed official also said disinflationary pressures are more dominant than inflationary pressures because of the pandemic, which has hampered economic activity.

Reporting by Jonnelle Marte; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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