Benn Steil


A graphical take on geoeconomic issues, with links to the news and expert commentary.

What Happens When the Fed Stops Buying Government Debt?

by Tuesday, January 26, 2010


The Federal Reserve plans to stop buying securities issued by government housing loan agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by the end of the first quarter. This is not only likely to push up mortgage rates; Treasury rates should rise as well. Throughout 2009, the private sector sold a portion of their agency holdings to the Fed and used those funds to buy Treasurys. Once the Fed’s agency purchases stop, this private sector portfolio shift will end, removing a major source of demand in the Treasury market. As the chart shows, since the start of 2009 the Fed has bought or financed the entire increase in Treasury issuance. As Fed purchases slow and Treasury issuance continues at a high level, interest rates will have to move up to attract new buyers. Read more »

Afghanistan’s Dependence on Foreign Aid

by Monday, January 11, 2010


The U.S. is increasing its military and civilian presence in Afghanistan as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to bring stability to the region and reduce the threat of terrorism at home. Economic growth is critical for building a stable society in a war-torn country. Although Afghanistan’s economy has grown by 20 percent annually since 2002, this growth has largely been driven by foreign aid. Aid has risen by 25 percent annually since 2002, increasing from 32 percent of GDP in 2002 to 42 percent in 2008. These massive aid inflows have fueled corruption, and leave the economy exposed to destabilizing shocks once aid is withdrawn. Building a functional, self-sustaining Afghan economy is therefore vital to the success of the U.S. and coalition mission in the country. Read more »