Not content with previous Bailout Pledges of $7.7 Trillion the Fed Commits $800 Billion More to Unfreeze Lending.

The Federal Reserve took two new steps to unfreeze credit for homebuyers, consumers and small businesses, committing up to $800 billion.

The central bank will purchase as much as $600 billion in debt issued or backed by government-chartered housing-finance companies. It will also set up a program of $200 billion to support consumer and small-business loans, the Fed said in statements today in Washington.

With today’s announcement, the central bank is starting to use some of the unorthodox policy tools that Chairman Ben S. Bernanke outlined as a Fed governor six years ago. Policy makers are aiming to prevent a financial collapse and stamp out the threat of deflation.

“They’re trying to put funds into the system, trying to unfreeze these markets,” said William Poole, the former St. Louis Fed president, in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “Clearly, the Fed and the Treasury are beginning to take a large amount of credit risk.”

The Fed will purchase up to $100 billion in direct debt of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks and up to $500 billion of mortgage-backed securities backed by Fannie, Freddie and Ginnie Mae, the statement said. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said at a press conference that $200 billion is just the “starting point” for the asset-backed securities program.

“The economy is turning down pretty dramatically,” he said. “It’s very important that lending continue to be available.”

There is no name yet for this new lending facility. Proposals are being taken. Here is the Press Release.

The Federal Reserve announced on Tuesday that it will initiate a program to purchase the direct obligations of housing-related government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs)–Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks–and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae. Spreads of rates on GSE debt and on GSE-guaranteed mortgages have widened appreciably of late. This action is being taken to reduce the cost and increase the availability of credit for the purchase of houses, which in turn should support housing markets and foster improved conditions in financial markets more generally.

Purchases of up to $100 billion in GSE direct obligations under the program will be conducted with the Federal Reserve’s primary dealers through a series of competitive auctions and will begin next week. Purchases of up to $500 billion in MBS will be conducted by asset managers selected via a competitive process with a goal of beginning these purchases before year-end. Purchases of both direct obligations and MBS are expected to take place over several quarters. Further information regarding the operational details of this program will be provided after consultation with market participants.

Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility

In addition to the unnamed GSE lending facility, the Fed has announced a $200, billion Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF).

The Federal Reserve Board on Tuesday announced the creation of the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), a facility that will help market participants meet the credit needs of households and small businesses by supporting the issuance of asset-backed securities (ABS) collateralized by student loans, auto loans, credit card loans, and loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Under the TALF, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) will lend up to $200 billion on a non-recourse basis to holders of certain AAA-rated ABS backed by newly and recently originated consumer and small business loans. The FRBNY will lend an amount equal to the market value of the ABS less a haircut and will be secured at all times by the ABS. The U.S. Treasury Department–under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008–will provide $20 billion of credit protection to the FRBNY in connection with the TALF.

New issuance of ABS declined precipitously in September and came to a halt in October. At the same time, interest rate spreads on AAA-rated tranches of ABS soared to levels well outside the range of historical experience, reflecting unusually high risk premiums. The ABS markets historically have funded a substantial share of consumer credit and SBA-guaranteed small business loans. Continued disruption of these markets could significantly limit the availability of credit to households and small businesses and thereby contribute to further weakening of U.S. economic activity. The TALF is designed to increase credit availability and support economic activity by facilitating renewed issuance of consumer and small business ABS at more normal interest rate spreads.

TALF Terms and Conditions

Here are the Terms and Condition of the TALF.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) will make up to $200 billion of loans under the TALF. TALF loans will have a one-year term, will be non-recourse to the borrower, and will be fully secured by eligible ABS. The U.S. Treasury Department will provide $20 billion of credit protection to the Federal Reserve in connection with the TALF, as described below.

Eligible collateral will include U.S. dollar-denominated cash (that is, not synthetic) ABS that have a long-term credit rating in the highest investment-grade rating category (for example, AAA) from two or more major nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (NRSROs) and do not have a long-term credit rating of below the highest investment-grade rating category from a major NRSRO.

All U.S. persons that own eligible collateral may participate in the TALF. A U.S. person is a natural person that is a U.S. citizen, a business entity that is organized under the laws of the United States or a political subdivision or territory thereof (including such an entity that has a non-U.S. parent company), or a U.S. branch or agency of a foreign bank.

By my count the government has now pledged $8.5 trillion in lending facilities with $5.55 trillion of that coming from the Fed, allowing $250 billion for the Citigroup Bailout Agreement. Taking into consideration Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s statement that $200 billion is just the “starting point” for the TALF asset-backed securities program, there is really no upper limit on pledges.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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