Federal Reserve exit strategy: Let U.S. banks set up CDs

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve on Monday proposed allowing banks to set up the equivalent of certificates of deposit at the central bank, a move that would help the Fed mop up money pumped into the economy and prevent inflation from taking off later.

Under the proposal, the Fed would offer so-called "term deposits" that would pay interest. Doing so would provide banks with another incentive to park their money at the Fed, rather than having it flow back into the economy.

The proposal comes as no surprise. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other Fed officials repeatedly have said the creation of so-called "term deposits" — essentially the equivalent of CDs for banks — would be one of several tools the Fed could use to drain money from the economy when the time is right.

Against that backdrop, the Fed said the proposal "has no implications for monetary policy decisions in the near term."

With both the economy and the financial system on the mend, the Fed this year began to wind down and scale back some emergency lending programs. Many of those programs were set up at the height of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008, when some credit markets virtually shut down. Lending conditions have improved but still aren't back to normal. They continue to restrain the economic recovery.

The Fed's balance sheet has ballooned to $2.2 trillion, reflecting the creation of lending programs intended to ease the financial crisis. That's more than double the pre-crisis level. The Fed will need to mop up that money or it could trigger inflation down the road.

The Fed proposed that the interest rate paid on the term deposit be set through an auction mechanism.

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