FAQs: Agency MBS Purchases

The following frequently asked questions (FAQs) provide further information about the Federal Reserve's secondary market purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

Effective September 16, 2020

General

How does the Desk intend to implement the FOMC’s plan to purchase agency MBS?
Effective September 16, 2020, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) directed the Open Market Trading Desk (the Desk) at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to increase the System Open Market Account (SOMA) holdings of agency MBS at the current pace. The FOMC also directed the Desk to increase holdings of agency MBS by additional amounts as needed to sustain the smooth functioning of the agency MBS market. In addition, the Desk will reinvest all principal payments from the Federal Reserve’s holdings of agency debt and agency MBS in agency MBS. Agency MBS purchases will continue to be conducted on a monthly basis and be concentrated in recently produced coupons in 30-year and 15-year fixed rate agency MBS in the To-Be-Announced (TBA) market. For the most recent Desk Statement regarding agency MBS purchases, see here.

How will the Desk communicate its agency MBS purchase amount and schedule?
The Desk will communicate its planned monthly purchase amount here, on or around the ninth business day of each month and will release tentative schedules of purchase operations twice a month here, on or around the ninth and the nineteenth business days. The tentative schedule will include information on the upcoming operation dates, times, security types (agency and coupon) and purchase amounts. The tentative operation schedule and parameters are subject to change if market conditions warrant or should the FOMC alters its guidance to the Desk.

How much agency MBS will the Desk purchase and how often will purchases take place?
At its September meeting, the FOMC directed the Desk to increase the SOMA holdings of agency MBS at the current pace, which is the equivalent of approximately $40 billion per month. In addition to purchases that increase SOMA holdings of agency MBS, the Desk will reinvest all principal payments from the Federal Reserve’s holdings of agency debt and agency MBS in agency MBS. Each monthly period, the Desk will publish the combined amount of purchases that will be conducted, including the amount of purchases to increase the SOMA holdings of agency MBS, and the amount of purchases to reinvest principal payments. These monthly amounts can be found here. The Desk is prepared to increase the size and adjust the composition of its purchase operations as needed to sustain the smooth functioning of the agency MBS market.

What types of agency MBS will the Desk purchase?
Agency MBS purchases will generally be concentrated in recently produced coupons in 30-year and 15-year fixed rate agency MBS in the To-Be-Announced (TBA) market. The Desk may purchase other agency MBS if market conditions warrant. Only agency MBS guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae are eligible for purchase.

How will agency MBS purchases be conducted?
The Desk will conduct purchases of agency MBS via FedTrade, the Desk's proprietary trading system. FedTrade operations will be conducted using multiple-price, competitive auctions with approved counterparties. A "multiple-price" auction is an auction in which the same security can be awarded at different prices, with awards given to participants at a price corresponding with an individual offer submitted to the operation. The minimum auction amount, offer size, and offer increment are each $1 million. Participants can submit up to ten offers per security, with each offer reflecting a price and par amount. Offers in FedTrade operations will be evaluated based on their proximity to prevailing market prices at the auction close.

Will the Federal Reserve conduct agency MBS dollar rolls or coupon swaps?
The Desk may use dollar roll and coupon swap transactions if needed to facilitate settlement associated with its unsettled agency MBS purchases. A dollar roll is a transaction that generally involves the sale of agency MBS for delivery in one month with the simultaneous agreement to purchase agency MBS, with the same agency, tenor and coupon, for delivery in a different month. A coupon swap is a transaction that involves the sale of one agency MBS and the simultaneous purchase of another agency MBS, each with different agencies, coupons, and/or tenors.

The Desk would conduct dollar roll and coupon swap transactions via Tradeweb, a commercial trading platform. Transactions conducted over Tradeweb would be executed through a competitive bidding process in line with standard market practices.

Under what circumstances may the Federal Reserve conduct agency MBS dollar rolls?
Based on the directive from the FOMC, the Desk may conduct dollar rolls in order to facilitate settlement associated with the Federal Reserve’s agency MBS transactions. Selling dollar rolls effectively postpones the settlement of outstanding forward purchase commitments, while buying dollar rolls effectively brings settlement forward. Dollar rolls would typically be conducted only if implied financing rates on agency MBS are notably below or above the general level of short-term interest rates, as such conditions may signal a shortage or abundance of supply, respectively, available for settlement. The Desk may conduct dollar rolls throughout the month, but at least two business days before TBA settlement dates. The amount of dollar rolls conducted may vary throughout the month depending on movements in implied financing rates.

Under what circumstances may the Federal Reserve conduct agency MBS coupon swaps?
Based on the directive from the FOMC, the Desk may conduct coupon swaps in order to facilitate settlement associated with the Federal Reserve’s agency MBS transactions. However, the Desk does not anticipate conducting such transactions unless market conditions suggest that purchases are unlikely to be settled for quite some time, as suggested by dollar-roll implied financing rates that are persistently below the general level of short-term interest rates, prolonged fails, or other market functioning indicators.

Would agency MBS dollar roll or coupon swap transactions reduce the amount of total outright agency MBS purchases?
No. Dollar roll and coupon swap transactions are the simultaneous sale and purchase of the same face amount of agency MBS. Thus, they only affect the timing or composition of the settlement of the Federal Reserve's agency MBS purchases.

Agency MBS Reporting

How will the Desk communicate the FedTrade operation results?
Operation results from FedTrade will be posted on the New York Fed’s website following each operation. The information posted will include the total amount of propositions received per auction, the total amount of propositions accepted per auction, the total amount accepted per security, and the settlement month. In addition, participating dealers will receive the operation results, including their accepted propositions, via FedTrade, immediately following the close of the auction.

How will the Desk communicate agency MBS transaction details?
The New York Fed publishes SOMA agency MBS transaction activity on its website on a weekly basis. Activity data includes the total amount of weekly purchases and dollar roll transactions by agency, coupon, maturity and settlement month. This information will include transactions conducted over FedTrade and Tradeweb, but will not include transactions related to small value exercises.

How are SOMA holdings of agency MBS reported?
Agency MBS transactions are reported after settlement occurs on the H.4.1. statistical release titled "Factors Affecting Reserve Balances of Depository Institutions and Condition Statement of Federal Reserve Banks." This report also includes information on total outstanding commitments to buy and sell MBS in Table 3 entitled "Supplemental Information on Mortgage-Backed Securities." Trade settlements may occur well after trade execution due to agency MBS settlement conventions. The New York Fed also publishes on a weekly basis detailed data on all settled SOMA agency MBS holdings. Any change in the composition of these reported holdings over time is a function of principal payments, outright purchases and sales, CUSIP aggregation, dollar roll, and coupon swap activity.

What explains changes in the total current face value of agency MBS held in the SOMA?
The total current face value of agency MBS held in the System Open Market Account (SOMA) will increase over time as a result of additional asset purchases. However, given that settlement of agency MBS transactions can occur up to three months in the future, the impact on reported holdings of monthly purchases will occur at a lag. In addition, reported holdings will fluctuate due to the difference in timing between the settlement of transactions and the receipt of principal payments for agency debt and agency MBS, and. the settlement of reinvestment transactions.

Will the Desk release operation pricing results?
Yes. In order to ensure the transparency of its agency MBS transactions, the Desk, at mid-month for the prior monthly period, will continue to publish historical operation results. This information will include the transaction prices in individual operations, including transactions related to small value exercises. In addition to the pricing information released each month, Section 1103 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 requires that detailed operational results, including counterparty names, be released two years after each quarterly transaction period.

Miscellaneous

Who is eligible to transact in agency MBS with the Federal Reserve?
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s primary dealers are eligible to transact in agency MBS operations directly with the Federal Reserve. Dealers are expected to submit bids or offers for themselves and for their customers.

Whom should dealers call if they experience difficulties during a FedTrade operation?
Primary dealers may call the New York Fed's Trading Desk with submission and verification questions. For FedTrade system-related problems, dealers may call the New York Fed's Primary Dealer Support line.

Does the Federal Reserve assess the TMPG agency MBS fails charge?
Yes. Effective February 1, 2012, the failure of the Federal Reserve's counterparties to deliver agency MBS for the contractual settlement date of the Desk's trades has resulted in the Federal Reserve assessing the applicable agency MBS fails charge recommended by the Treasury Market Practices Group (TMPG). Additional information can be found here.

Does the Federal Reserve require the posting of margin for unsettled agency MBS trades?
Yes. The Federal Reserve requires counterparties to post margin to the New York Fed. Counterparties post initial margin, currently 2.5 percent, and then variation margin is calculated on a daily basis. Margin serves to protect the New York Fed from counterparty credit risk exposure arising from the unsettled agency MBS TBA trades. The New York Fed may periodically make changes to the initial margin rate as appropriate.

What is CUSIP Aggregation?
CUSIP aggregation is a process through which a number of existing MBS issued or guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae with similar characteristics, including uniform agency backing, coupon, and original term to maturity, are consolidated into a larger pass-through security. The aggregated CUSIPs are similar to those agency MBS being consolidated, except that the aggregated CUSIP represent groups of agency MBS, which themselves represent groups of residential mortgages that conform to specified requirements. The cash flows from the underlying agency MBS provide the cash flows for the aggregated CUSIP. Additional information about CUSIP Aggregation can be found on the Agency MBS CUSIP Aggregation FAQ page.

FAQ: July 15, 2020 »