What’s going on in the repo market? Rates on repurchase (“repo”) agreements should be about 2%, in line with the Federal Reserve funds rate. But they shot up to over 5% on Sept. 16 and got as high as 10% on Sept. 17. Yet banks were refusing to lend to each other, evidently passing up big profits to hold onto their cash—just as they did in the housing market crash and Great Recession of 2008-09.
Because banks weren’t lending, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York jumped in, increasing its overnight repo operations to $75 billion, and on Oct. 23, it upped the ante to $120 billion in overnight operations and $45 billion in longer-term operations.