NY Fed pumps at least $50 billion more into the financial system to ease coronavirus stress

The New York Stock Exchange halted stock trading for 15 minutes after the S&P 500 fell 7% on Monday morning.

The New York Federal Reserve is pumping in tens of billions of dollars of extra cash into the financial system in a bid to ease severe stress gripping global financial markets because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The NY Fed announced Monday it is ramping up its overnight cash injections from at least $100 billion to at least $150 billion. The move, coming on a day when the Dow briefly plunged more than 2,000 points, or 8%, marks an acceleration of a rescue of the overnight lending markets that began last fall.

Authorities also more than doubled the amount offered during two-week term repo to at least $45 billion.

The NY Fed cited the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced Wall Street firms to consider how they will operate if New York City requires employees to work from home.

The moves “should help support smooth functioning of funding markets as market participants implement business resiliency plans in response to the coronavirus,” the NY Fed said in a statement.

JPMorgan Chase, America’s largest bank, recently asked thousands of its employees to work from home for a day and is testing backup trading sites in case the outbreak disrupts its primary trading floors in New York and London.

The NY Fed first began pumping money into the overnight lending market in September in response to spiking borrowing rates. Although it gets far less attention than stocks and bonds, the overnight lending market is critical to the functioning of the global financial system. It allows banks, hedge funds and other financial institutions to cheaply and easily borrow money.

Analysts said unlike that rescue in the fall, Monday’s announcement was preemptive in nature, aimed at avoiding a similar surge in borrowing costs.

“The Fed wanted to send a signal that it sees what’s going on in markets and is being responsive,” said Mark Cabana, head of US rates strategy at Bank of America. “Why not? There is very limited cost for the Fed.”

Bailouts for airlines, cruise operators?

Overnight secured lending rates have been relatively stable during the recent turmoil. However, unsecured rates have been more volatile, reflecting rising economic concerns.

Coronavirus fears, coupled with an historic collapse in oil prices, sent shockwaves through markets Monday. Selling was so intense that circuit breakers were triggered, forcing a 15-minute trading halt on the New York Stock Exchange. US stocks rebounded from session lows following the rare trading pause.

Last week, seeking to calm markets, the Fed announced its first emergency rate cut since 2008. Investors are betting the US central bank will need to further slash rates, perhaps all the way down to zero.

Wall Street is clamoring for more action from Washington, including potential fiscal stimulus in the form of tax cuts or spending packages. And the Fed is under pressure to provide more help as well.

“The market is looking for the Fed to do more,” said Cabana.

Cabana said investors want the Fed to invoke its emergency powers to launch lending programs aimed at helping parts of the economy getting clobbered by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Investors are speculating about whether the Fed could lend to airlines, cruise operators, hotels and restaurants,” he said.