A third option for further monetary policy easing is to lower the rate of interest that the Fed pays banks on the reserves they hold with the Federal Reserve System.
Inside the Fed this rate is known as the IOER rate, the “interest on excess reserves” rate. The IOER rate, currently set at 25 basis points, could be reduced to, say, 10 basis points or even to zero.
On the margin, a reduction in the IOER rate would provide banks with an incentive to increase their lending to nonfinancial borrowers or to participants in short-term money markets, reducing short-term interest rates further and possibly leading to some expansion in money and credit aggregates.
However, under current circumstances, the effect of reducing the IOER rate on financial conditions in isolation would likely be relatively small.
The federal funds rate is currently averaging between 15 and 20 basis points and would almost certainly remain positive after the reduction in the IOER rate. Cutting the IOER rate even to zero would be unlikely therefore to reduce the federal funds rate by more than 10 to 15 basis points.
The effect on longer-term rates would probably be even less, although that effect would depend in part on the signal that market participants took from the action about the likely future course of policy.
Moreover, such an action could disrupt some key financial markets and institutions. Importantly for the Fed’s purposes, a further reduction in very short-term interest rates could lead short-term money markets such as the federal funds market to become much less liquid, as near-zero returns might induce many participants and market-makers to exit.