Brookings Papers on Economic Activity

The Effects of Quantitative Easing on Interest Rates: Channels and Implications for Policy

Abstract

We evaluate the effect of the Federal Reserve’s purchase of long-term Treasuries and other long-term bonds (QE1 in 2008–09 and QE2 in 2010–11) on interest rates. Using an event-study methodology, we reach two main conclusions. First, it is inappropriate to focus only on Treasury rates as a policy target, because quantitative easing works through several channels that affect particular assets differently. We find evidence for a signaling channel, a unique demand for long-term safe assets, and an inflation channel for both QE1 and QE2, and a mortgage-backed securities (MBS) prepayment channel and a corporate bond default risk channel for QE1 only. Second, effects on particular assets depend critically on which assets are purchased. The event study suggests that MBS purchases in QE1 were crucial for lowering MBS yields as well as corporate credit risk and thus corporate yields for QE1, and Treasuriesonly purchases in QE2 had a disproportionate effect on Treasuries and agency bonds relative to MBSs and corporate bonds, with yields on the latter falling primarily through the market’s anticipation of lower future federal funds rates.