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Fed halts Twist, stays aboard QE3

By Sheyna Steiner · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Posted: 12 pm ET

The rate-setting group at the Federal Reserve will keep the benchmark federal funds rate at its current ultralow level, targeted between zero percent and 0.25 percent, until 2015. Federal Reserve building

The Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, also voted to expand the bond-buying program announced in September, known as QE3.

In the third round of quantitative easing, the central bank will purchase $40 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities every month. To those acquisitions, they will now add outright purchases of Treasury securities as a result of the end of the maturity extension program, Operation Twist.

With a dwindling supply of short-term Treasury securities in the bank's portfolio and an abundance of economic uncertainty, the Fed announced Wednesday that Operation Twist will end on schedule, but the purchases of long-term Treasuries will continue.

"Letting Operation Twist expire would not be an act of tightening, but not purchasing any Treasuries would let their easing program abate, if you will," says Scott Kimball, portfolio manager of the BMO TCH Corporate Income Fund.

And that is something the Federal Reserve is not ready to do.

The central bank plans to buy outright $45 billion of Treasury securities every month until economic conditions improve. The goal of the asset purchases, according to the Fed, is to "put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative."

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