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The Federal Reserve System Balance Sheet-What Happened And Why It Matters

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Executive Summary

The recent expansion of the balance sheet of the consolidated Federal Reserve Banks (FRB) is analyzed in an historical context. The analysis reveals that the nature of Fed involvement in U.S. financial markets has changed dramatically and its expansion is several orders of magnitude beyond what is usually reported. The associated fiscal risks and potential exit strategies are then considered. Although risks are considerable in certain unlikely scenarios, FRB capital, earnings capacity, and reserves are more than ample to preserve their financial independence.

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