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Authorized for public release by the FOMC Secretariat on 04/15/2016

Date:

June 18, 2003

To:

Messrs. Kos and Reinhart

From:

Radha Chaurushiya and Ken Kuttner

Subject: Targeting the Yield Curve: The Experience of the Federal Reserve, 1942-51

With limited scope remaining for cuts in the nominal federal funds rate, one of the
strategies currently under discussion involves the use of monetary policy to reduce
longer-term interest rates. One of the measures that could be used to effect such a
reduction is a direct cap on longer-term yields. This memo examines in some detail the
most famous precedent for such a policy: During the nine-year period from early 1942
until the Treasury-Federal Reserve Accord of 1951, the yield on long-term Treasury
bonds was capped at 2½ percent, and ceilings were also imposed at several other points
along the yield curve. In addition, the yield on short-term Treasury bills was pegged at
3

/8 percent up until July 1947. Our principal findings are as follows:

•

The ceilings on long-term interest rates were binding for one year, in that only from
late 1947 to December 1948 were large securities purchases required to enforce the
ceiling. A key factor in keeping long-term yields below the caps prior to 1947 was
the indefinite commitment to a bill rate of only 3/8 percent. Even when the caps were
not binding, the implicit commitment to the caps limited bonds’ downside price risk,
and therefore may have been another factor helping to keep long-term rates low.

•

Maintaining a pattern of interest rates inconsistent with market expectations about
near-term monetary policy led to large shifts in the composition of private-sector and
Federal Reserve portfolios. Prior to 1947, when the bill rate was pegged at a very low
level relative to bond rates, private investors abandoned bills and accumulated bonds,
while the System did the opposite. The July 1947 increase in the bill rate put pressure
on the 2½ percent cap on bond yields, forcing the System to accumulate a large
volume of long-term bonds in order to enforce the cap.

•

The obligation to maintain the interest rate caps interfered with the Federal Reserve’s
pursuit of its monetary policy objectives on numerous occasions, particularly during
the economic expansion accompanying the onset of the Korean War. The recognition
that the caps could not be maintained without exacerbating inflationary pressures
eventually led to the Treasury-Federal Reserve Accord of 1951, which (among other
things) discontinued the interest rate ceilings.

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•

The abandonment of the cap on long-term interest rates in April 1951 meant a decline
in the value of bonds, raising concerns about the balance sheets of the institutions
holding those bonds. To offset a portion of those losses, the Treasury offered to
exchange the bonds for higher-yielding convertible securities.

The Origin of the Policy of Targeting the Yield Curve
The policy of pegging the short-term interest rate and imposing ceilings on
longer-term interest rates resulted primarily from the requirements of wartime finance,
rather than monetary policy considerations per se. But the seeds of greater involvement
by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve in the Treasury market were sown years before
the onset of WWII. These years were also characterized by the Treasury’s increasing
dominance over the Federal Reserve on interest rate policy.
In early 1935, for example, the Treasury’s concerns about the impact of rising
interest rates on its debt management objectives led it to ask the Federal Reserve to
stabilize bond prices. The System responded by purchasing long-term government bonds
for the first time in its history.1 Two years later, the Federal Reserve again intervened in
the Treasury market, purchasing $104 million in bonds in an attempt to stem the decline
in long-term bond prices that followed the 1937 increase in reserve requirements. The
decision to intervene was no doubt influenced by pressure from Treasury, which
threatened to end gold sterilization unless the System purchased bonds.2 Deeming it “in
the public interest to exert its influence in a positive way toward maintaining orderly
conditions in the market for United States Government securities,” the Federal Reserve
also purchased $100 million in bonds in 1939, as the outbreak of war in Europe put
upward pressure on yields.3
Coordination between the Federal Reserve and the Treasury intensified in the
early summer of 1941, when the Federal Open Market Committee began holding joint
conferences with the Treasury to consider the development of a long-term program for
1

See Eichengreen and Garber (1991).

2

Meltzer (2003, pp. 511-512) writes, “[Treasury Secretary] Morgenthau tried to get a commitment from the
Federal Reserve about how much it would let interest rates rise, but [Federal Reserve Chairman] Eccles
would not go beyond a general commitment to continue easy policy. Morgenthau threatened to end gold
sterilization, in effect nullifying the Federal Reserve’s action.”

3

The Federal Reserve was, however, quick to note that the System had “neither the obligation nor the
power to assure any given level of prices or yields.” (Annual Report, 1939, p. 5.)

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financing the government’s rapidly growing debt. In effect, this required keeping the
interest rates paid by the Treasury from rising.
Views differed as to how best to achieve this goal.4 Treasury officials asserted
that the best way to maintain low long-term rates was to keep short-term interest rates
low through the generous supply of reserves to the banking system. In contrast, Federal
Reserve officials were concerned about the inflationary consequences of such a policy.
They favored allowing the short-term interest rate to rise, and as an alternative, proposed
using outright purchases of long-term Treasury securities to prevent increases in longerterm rates. The Federal Reserve believed such a policy could be used successfully to
maintain a long-term Treasury rate of 2½ percent and proposed announcing that rate as
its target.
In a compromise struck on March 20, 1942, Federal Reserve and Treasury
officials agreed to cap the long-term Treasury yield at 2½ percent, the seven- to nineyear yield at 2 percent, and the one-year rate at 7/8 percent. The Federal Reserve
strenuously opposed the Treasury’s initial proposal to increase reserves, but eventually
acquiesced to an alternative plan of posting a 3/8 percent rate on short-term Treasury bills.
At the time, this 3/8 percent peg was seen as relatively innocuous, partly because the rate
was slightly higher than the then-prevailing rate of ¼ percent on Treasury bills, and also
because it was not then perceived as an indefinite commitment. Interestingly, the caps
on long-term interest rates were never formally announced, perhaps to avoid
embarrassment in case the policy proved unsuccessful.
The Wartime Impact of the Interest Rate Ceilings, 1942-45
The long-term Treasury yield rose sharply from 2 to nearly 2½ percent with the
entry of the United States into the war in late 1941, as shown in the center panel of
Chart 3. Although the long bond yield remained only a few basis points below the 2½
percent ceiling, the Federal Reserve never intervened to enforce the cap, suggesting that
the caps were probably not directly binding over this period.

4

The origins of this policy, and in particular the conflicts between the Treasury and the Federal Reserve,
are described in detail by Wicker (1969).

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Instead, it was the 3/8 percent peg of the short-term Treasury bill rate that drove
the actions of the Federal Reserve and the private sector over this period. As the policy
of capping the yield curve at longer maturities became apparent over the course of 1942
and 1943, it also became clear that a steep, upward-sloping yield curve was inconsistent
with market expectations of future short-term rates. Specifically, under the expectations
hypothesis of the term structure, a long-lived peg of the bill rate at 3/8 percent would have
implied levels of long-term interest rates considerably below the interest rate caps set by
the Federal Reserve and the Treasury. At the same time, to the extent that they were
expected to continue into the future, the caps greatly reduced the downside price risk
associated with long-term bonds, which would have tended to reduce any term premia
embedded in long-term yields.5 This naturally made investors much more willing to hold
long-term bonds, whose yields far exceeded the 3/8 percent yield on bills, greatly
increasing the substitutability between maturities.
As a result, investors shifted their assets out of short-term bills and into longdated Treasuries instead. In order to keep short-term interest rates from rising, the
System was obliged to purchase bills in large quantities. Its holdings of short-term bills
jumped from zero in March 1942 to $13 billion (out of a total portfolio of $23 billion) in
August 1945, which represented 76 percent of all outstanding bills. As shown in Chart 1,
the System’s holdings of bills ballooned during this period, reaching 65 percent of the its
portfolio as of August 1945. (Ninety-five percent of the portfolio consisted of securities
maturing within one year.) By contrast, the 2½ percent cap on long-term bonds was in
all likelihood above what would have been the equilibrium rate in the absence of the cap,
as seen by the fact that the Federal Reserve was never called upon to defend the ceilings.
Consequently, System holdings of long bonds actually declined during the war, falling to
just over $1 billion in August 1945.

5

A deeper question is why this open-ended commitment to a low bill rate was viewed as sustainable. At
some level, the explanation must involve low inflation expectations, perhaps owing to combination of the
1930s experience with deflation and the wartime price controls. Alternatively, Eichengreen and Garber
(1991) suggest a credible, if implicit, commitment on the part of the Federal Reserve to fight inflation once
prices exceeded some threshold helped restrain inflationary expectations.

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Postwar Bust and Boom, 1945-47
Long-term interest rates began to decline in the spring of 1945 and continued to
fall once the pressures of war finance abated, as shown in the center panel of Chart 3. In
fact, the long bond rate had fallen well below the caps even before the end of the war, and
by 1946 it was down to only 2 percent. Clearly, expectations of low future nominal
short-term interest rates were the major factor keeping long-term rates low during this
period, rather than the caps themselves.
Given that the bill rate had been pegged at 3/8 percent since March of 1942, it is
somewhat surprising that long-term interest rates did not start to decline until three years
later, in 1945. Walker (1954) provides an extensive discussion of this apparent puzzle.
One factor seems to be that even after the pattern of targeted rates had become clear, it
was not clear how long this policy would be sustained; banks were evidently hoping the
short-term bill rate would be allowed to rise in the future. The periodic “Victory Loan”
drives were another factor. During these drives, which continued through December
1945, investors were allowed to purchase at par unlimited quantities of various Treasury
issues, including the 2½ percent long-term bonds. This had the effect of actually keeping
long-term interest rates higher than they would otherwise have been and effectively
turned the interest rate cap into a peg. Indeed, by the final October–December 1945
drive, 59 percent of all bond purchases by the public were the long-dated 2½ percent
issue.
The situation changed significantly as the economy recovered from its brief
postwar contraction. Prices began rising rapidly in 1946 as wage and price controls were
relaxed, and European demand for American goods surged. In spite of the jump in
inflation, long-term interest rates remained low throughout 1946 and the first half of 1947
— either because the rise in prices was perceived as transitory, or because of a belief that
the Federal Reserve would act at some point in the future to restrain inflation.
The maintenance of the low bill rate peg during much of the postwar boom is
remarkable in and of itself. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York had advocated an
increase in the bill rate as early as 1944, but Chairman Eccles was reluctant to make such

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a move until the end of the war.6 One reason for this reluctance had to do with the
stability of the banking system. Banks had absorbed a large amount of government
securities relative to their available capital during World War II, which left them
particularly vulnerable to increasing interest rates. This concern was echoed in the
Board’s 1945 Annual Report: “A major consequence of increasing the general level of
interest rates would be a fall in the market values of outstanding government securities.
These price declines would create difficult market problems for the Treasury in refunding
its maturing and called securities. If the price declines were sharp they could have highly
unfavorable repercussions on the functioning of financial institutions and if carried far
enough might even weaken public confidence in such institutions.” (Annual Report,
1945, p. 7.) A case for allowing the bill rate to rise was, however, made in the following
year’s Annual Report, which acknowledged that freeing up the short rate would allow
interest rates to “become more responsive to demand,” and restore “a higher degree of
flexibility to the control of credit through the money market.” (Annual Report, 1946, p.
5.)
The significant mid-1946 rise in the rate on ninety-day bankers acceptances and
four- to six-month commercial paper rates, shown in the center panel of Chart 2, may
have been a sign that the bill rate peg was viewed as increasingly unrealistic, and not
representative of other market short-term interest rates. The 1946 Annual Report
commented that the increases in other short-term rates at the time required the adjustment
of the bankers acceptances rate to ¾ percent from just under ½ percent, suggesting that
the increase in private-sector interest rates was widespread.
The Defense of the Rate Caps, 1947–48
After subsiding during the first half of 1947, inflation again became a problem in
the latter half of the year, rising at a 12 percent annual rate between June and December.
Faced with growing inflationary pressure, the Federal Reserve struck an agreement with
the Treasury in July 1947 to raise the bill rate peg, which reached 1 percent by the end of
6

Meltzer states, “…Eccles favored the fixed rate structure throughout the war to reduce financing costs…”
(Meltzer, p. 597). In a March 1947 speech, Eccles stated, “…it would be desirable to permit some rise in
short-term interest rates if necessary to prevent long rates from declining further as a result of debt
monetization by banks.” (Eccles, Speech on March 4, 1947)

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the year. In August, the 7/8 percent ceiling on nine- and twelve-month certificates was
also allowed to rise to 11/8 percent by the end of the year.7 Intermediate yields were
adjusted accordingly “in relation to the 2½ percent long-term yield and the 11/8 percent
rate on Treasury certificates.” (Annual Report, 1947, p. 6.) From this point on, the
FOMC decided upon the level of the bill peg at FOMC meetings, subject to approval
from the Treasury. The Federal Reserve was able to convince the Treasury to allow the
July 1947 increase in short-term rates by paying the Treasury approximately 90 percent
of the net earnings of the Federal Reserve Banks, offsetting the Treasury’s increased
interest costs.
The yields on privately issued short-term debt did not rise as steeply as Treasury
bill rates following the increase in the bill peg, resulting in a narrowing of spreads to their
pre-1946 levels, as shown in the bottom panel of Chart 2. This, along with the widening
of the same spreads earlier in the year, is further evidence suggesting that the linkage
between private-sector interest rates and Treasury rates was somewhat looser than might
have been expected based on experience.
With this significant increase in short-term interest rates, the 2½ percent yield on
long-term bonds no longer looked so attractive to investors. In addition, having
abandoned the peg on short-term interest rates, there may also have been some doubts as
to the credibility of the cap on long-term rates.8 The result was a large-scale shift of
private sector portfolios out of bonds and into bills, which led in turn to upward pressure
on long-term interest rates.
In late 1947, the System began to enforce the 2½ percent ceiling on government
bond yields through large purchases of bonds, including $2 billion in November and
December 1947 and $3 billion in the first quarter of 1948. By the end of 1948, the
System’s bond holdings rose from less than $1 billion to roughly $11 billion, going from
a negligible portion of its portfolio to nearly 50 percent. Ultimately, the rate caps were
successfully enforced, and the bond rate was kept at or below 2½ percent for the duration
7

Certificates of indebtedness were Treasury obligations limited by law to a maturity of one year. The term
of issue was usually eleven to twelve months.

8

In late 1947 and early 1948, Federal Reserve officials found themselves in a position of having to publicly
reaffirm the continuation of the 2½ percent cap for the foreseeable future; see Chandler (1949), pp. 413­
414.

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of 1948. It is worth noting that the defense was successful despite the Federal Reserve’s
relatively small share of the overall long-term bond market. Its peak holdings of
$11 billion in December 1948 amounted to just over 10 percent of total outstandings.
For most of this period, purchases of long-term bonds were financed entirely by
maturing bills, leaving the overall size of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet largely
unchanged. In late 1948, however, a significant share of the bond purchases was
financed through an expansion in the System’s balance sheet. The impact of this balance
sheet growth on excess reserves was minimized by the August 1948 increase in required
reserves from 22 to 26 percent of deposits.
There is some indication that corporate bond rates drifted away from Treasury
rates over this period, although the evidence is less clear than in the case of short-term
rates in 1946-47. The spread between Aaa-rated corporate bonds and Treasury bonds
increased from 30 to 47 basis points between July and December 1947, when the Federal
Reserve began its defense of the ceilings. The spread narrowed in 1948, but remained
slightly above its 1947 levels. The spread did not narrow appreciably once the caps
ceased to bind in 1949, however, which tends to suggest that the caps were not
significantly distorting the relationship between the two rates.
Recession and Recovery: 1948-49
The recession that began in November 1948 reduced the inflationary pressure and
demand for credit that had been building earlier in the year.9 Consequently, bond yields
began to fall in the summer of 1948, which allowed the Federal Reserve to cease
purchasing bonds in order to enforce the yield ceiling. The Federal Reserve was slow to
recognize that the economy was in a recession, however, and continued pressing for
higher short-term interest rates as a first step towards eliminating the bill rate peg
entirely. The Federal Reserve proposed, and in March 1949 the Treasury rejected, a
1

/8 percentage point increase in the bill rate.
Meanwhile, the System took the opportunity of falling bond rates to liquidate

some of the bonds it had accumulated in the course of its defense of the rate caps. It sold
9

The National Bureau of Economic Research dates the peak in November 1948, although prices and
industrial production began turning down as early as August.

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$3 billion in bonds during the first few months of 1949 ostensibly “in response to market
demand, primarily from nonbank investors.” (Annual Report 1949, p. 8.) The reductions
in reserve requirements in May and June also resulted in System sales of government
securities to banks in order to maintain current interest rates. The fall in the System’s
government securities holdings is apparent in the top panel of Chart 1.
It was not until mid-1949 that the Federal Reserve cut short-term rates in response
to the recession that had begun several months earlier, a delay partly explained by the
ongoing struggle between the Federal Reserve and the Treasury. Having pushed the
Treasury for increases in short-term rates since December 1948, the FOMC apparently
hesitated in lowering short-term interest rates because it did not want to give the Treasury
a reason to set the bill peg even lower. The Federal Reserve privately stated its
willingness to allow short-term rates to decline if the Treasury would accept that this
meant a greater flexibility and independence in interest rate policy in both directions.10
In late June 1949, the FOMC announced that, “the maintenance of a relatively fixed
pattern of rates under present conditions has the undesirable effect of absorbing reserves
from the market at a time when the availability of credit should be increased,” and
decided to let the short-term interest rate fall. (Annual Report, 1949, p. 8.) A reduction in
reserve requirements and the cessation of bond sales to banks further contributed to the
expansionary stance of monetary policy.
The FOMC’s reaction to the end of the recession in October 1949 was much
swifter than its response to the recession’s onset. In November, the Committee “adopted
a policy of permitting growing credit demand to be reflected in rising short-term rates.”
(Annual Report, 1949, p. 11.) Acting on this policy, the System sold short- and long-term
securities in early 1950, which reduced excess reserves and contributed to a firming of
short-term interest rates.
The Treasury-Federal Reserve Accord of 1951
Divisions between the Treasury and the Federal Reserve over interest rate policy
deepened with the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. Congressional hearings on

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money, credit, and fiscal policies, which had begun in fall 1949, became a forum in
which the two institutions argued their cases in what was a rather public confrontation of
Treasury policy by the Federal Reserve. The Treasury favored keeping interest rates low
to facilitate war finance. Federal Reserve officials, on the other hand, favored higher
interest rates in order to combat the inflationary pressures created by the war. These
pressures developed very rapidly: In anticipation of possible wartime rationing, the public
began buying up consumer goods, driving up the CPI at a 7.7 percent annual rate in the
second half of 1950, and at a 17.2 percent rate in the first quarter of 1951. Inflation
expectations rose rapidly as well. Surveys conducted by the Michigan Survey Research
Center showed that in early 1950, only 15 percent of respondents believed that consumer
prices would rise; a year later, 76 percent believed there would be an increase in prices.
(Friedman and Schwartz, 1963, p. 599.)
The Federal Reserve’s efforts to raise interest rates during this period were
thwarted by Treasury’s refusal to raise the interest rate ceilings. The FOMC voted in
June 1950 to increase the one-year rate, but the Treasury refused and issued new
certificates at the previous, lower rate, which the Federal Reserve was then required to
support. System purchases of these securities resulted in a boom in its holdings of
Treasury notes and certificates during the second half of 1950. Over this period, sales of
longer-term securities were used to minimize the impact on these purchases on the
overall size of the System’s balance sheet.
The demand for bonds had tapered off as the year progressed, and the long-term
bond rate began to rise in September 1950. By the end of the year, the Federal Reserve
was once again in a position of accumulating long-term government securities in an effort
to prevent yields from rising. At the same time, relatively few bills remained on the
System’s balance sheet, giving the central bank “less leeway for selling such securities in
order to offset its purchases of other securities,” and on net the open market operations

10

This condition of greater interest rate flexibility was not officially announced, and thus gave the Federal
Reserve little room to argue when the Treasury later refused to allow short-term interest rates to increase
after the end of the recession.

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had an “expansionary effect on bank reserves.”11 (Annual Report, 1950, pp. 3 and 10.)
The January 1951 increase in required reserves did allow the Federal Reserve to purchase
additional notes and bonds without increasing excess reserves. The additional $2 billion
in purchases in early 1951 were insufficient to stem the upward pressure on longer-term
rates, however. Thus, it became abundantly clear during this period that the interest rate
caps were hampering the Federal Reserve’s ability to achieve its monetary policy
objectives, and in particular its efforts to contain rapidly rising inflationary pressures.
In March 1951, with the bond rate at 2.47 percent, the Federal Reserve and the
Treasury negotiated the Accord that ended the direct setting of long-term interest rates,
thus recognizing “the dilemma presented by the conflicting problems of debt
management and credit restraint in the inflationary situation which developed.” (Annual
Report, 1951, p. 98.) The released statement of the Accord read, “The Treasury and the
Federal Reserve System have reached full accord with respect to debt management and
monetary policies to be pursued in furthering their common purpose to assure the
successful financing of the Government’s requirements and, at the same time, to
minimize monetization of the public debt.” In April, the previous 2½ percent cap on the
long-term Treasury yield was breached, falling below that level only once, in 1954.
One difficult issue associated with the abandonment of the interest rate caps was
how to deal with the losses inflicted on bondholders by the rise in long-term interest
rates. These losses could have had adverse implications for the solvency of banks and
insurance companies, which were major holders of long-term Treasuries at the time. The
Treasury’s solution was to allow bondholders (under certain conditions) to convert their
old 2½ percent bonds into nonmarketable twenty-nine-year bonds with a 2¾ percent
coupon that were convertible at the owner’s discretion into five-year notes with a 1½
percent coupon. Thus the Treasury absorbed much of the losses associated with its
renunciation of the interest rate caps.12

11

As of October 1950, the System held only $763 million in bills (out of a portfolio of $19 billion), which
could conceivably have been liquidated to enforce the cap on the long bond yield. The portfolio did
include $14 billion in one-year certificates, but these had only just been purchased in an effort to defend the
cap on the one-year rate.
12

Details of the conversion plan appear the 1951 Annual Report, page 100.

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Conclusions
Although the structure of the economy and financial markets have surely changed
in the intervening sixty years, a number of pertinent conclusions can be drawn from the
1942-51 experience with using interest rate caps to manage the yield curve. During the
first five years of the episode, the caps on longer-term yields were above the market rates
that would have prevailed in the absence of the caps, given the expectations of low future
short-term rates created by the open-ended bill rate peg and modest inflation
expectations. Consequently, the Federal Reserve was able to maintain the longer-term
rate ceilings until the end of 1947 without significant purchases of bonds.
The experience from 1948 until the Accord in 1951 illustrates the sorts of policy
actions that could be required to enforce a set of interest rate caps and highlights the
potential for conflict between monetary policy objectives and the interest rate ceilings.
When the caps came under pressure in 1948, the Federal Reserve was obliged to
aggressively purchase long-term bonds, resulting in a significant shift in the maturity
composition of the System’s portfolio. When the caps again came under pressure in late
1950, relatively few bills remained on the System’s balance sheet, which forced the
Federal Reserve to increase its total holdings of securities and release additional reserves
into the banking system. Reserve requirements were raised in January 1951, which
helped limit increases in excess bank reserves; however, inflation was still rising fairly
rapidly at the end of 1950 and beginning of 1951. Consequently, the Federal Reserve
became openly frustrated with the constraints on monetary policy associated with the
commitment to support yields on government securities and pushed for an end to the
policy.
The experience illustrates three other important issues that arise in the context of
attempting to influence the slope of the yield curve. One is whether the ceilings on
Treasury yields—to the extent that they were binding—were effective in also limiting
private-sector interest rates, such as those on bankers acceptances and corporate bonds.
Widening spreads between these rates and those on Treasuries suggest that the policy
may not have been entirely successful in holding down private-sector yields. Another
issue concerns the “exit strategy”—that is, how to discontinue the caps, once they are no
longer needed. One likely reason for the reluctance to abandon the caps was the fear that

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doing so would generate capital losses, which would in turn undercut the stability of the
banking system. It was presumably with this in mind that the Treasury introduced a bond
conversion program when the caps were dismantled in 1951, thereby insulating
bondholders from the losses they would otherwise have experienced. A third issue is that
because the direct management of the entire yield curve has a large and direct impact on
the Treasury’s financing costs, it increases the scope for conflict between the central bank
and the fiscal authorities. Conflicts of this sort arose repeatedly during the pre-Accord
period, and may have been a factor in prolonging the interest rate caps well after they had
outlived their usefulness.

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References
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1937-1951), Annual Report of the
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Washington, DC.
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1943), Banking and Monetary
Statistics, 1914-1941, Washington, DC.
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1973), Banking and Monetary
Statistics, 1941-1970, Washington, DC.
Chandler, Lester (1949), “Federal Reserve Policy and Federal Debt,” American
Economic Review 39 (March), 405–29.
Eccles, Marriner S. (1947), “Statement by Chairman Eccles in Answer to Questions
Regarding Methods of Restricting Monetization of Public Debt by Banks,” March
4, 1947.
Eichengreen, Barry and Peter M. Garber (1991), “Before the Accord: U.S. MonetaryFinancial Policy, 1945-51” in Financial Markets and Financial Crises, (R. Glenn
Hubbard, ed), Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Friedman, Milton and Anna Schwartz (1963), A Monetary History of the United States,
1867 – 1960, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Ibbotson Associates (1990), Stocks, Bonds, Bills and Inflation 1990 Yearbook, Chicago:
Ibbotson Associates, Inc.
Meltzer, Allan H. (2003), A History of the Federal Reserve, Volume 1, Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press.
Walker, Charles E. (1954), “Federal Reserve Policy and the Structure of Interest Rates on
Government Securities,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 67 (February), 19–42.
Wicker, Elmus R. (1969), “The World War II Policy of Fixing a Pattern of Interest
Rates,” Journal of Finance 24 (June), 447–58.

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Chart 1

Federal Reserve System Holdings of Government Securities

U.S. Government Securities Held by All Federal Reserve Banks Combined

$ billions

July 1947
End of 0.375%
Bill Peg

Mar. 1942
Beginning of
Pattern of Rates

30

30

Mar. 1951
Accord

25

25

Total
20
20


Notes and
Certificates
Bonds

15
15


10
10


Bills
5


0
1941

1942

1943

1944

1945

1946

1947

1948

1949

1950

1951

Source: Banking and Monetary Statistics, 1941-1970, Table 9.5(a).

Maturity Distribution of the Federal Reserve’s Portfolio, 1941-1951

Percent
100

100

Greater than
5 years

90 days to 1 year
80

80

60

60

Less than 90 days

40
40


1 to 5
years
20
20


0
1941

1942

1943

1944

1945

1946

Source: Banking and Monetary Statistics, Table 9.5(b).

15

1947

1948

1949

1950

1951

1951

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Chart 2

The Treasury Bill Market and Short-term Interest Rates

Total Bills Outstanding and Amount of Bills Held Outside the Federal Reserve

$ billions
July 1947
End of 0.375%
Bill Peg

Mar. 1942

Beginning of

Pattern of Rates

20
Mar. 1951
Accord
15

Fed Holdings

10

5

Public Holdings
0
1937

1938

1939

1940

1941

1942

1943

1944

1945

1946

1947

1948

1949

1950

1951

1952

Source. Banking and Monetary Statistics, 1914-1941, Tables 146 and 91, and Banking and Monetary Statistics, 1941-1970, Tables 13.2 and 9.5

Market Yields on Short-term Securities

Percent

Mar. 1942
Beginning of
Pattern of Rates

July 1947
End of 0.375%
Bill Peg

2.5

Mar. 1951
Accord

2.0

1.5

9- to 12-month
Treasury Certificate

Prime CP

1.0

Banker’s Acceptances

0.5

3-month US Treasury Bill
0.0
1937

1938

1939

1940

1941

1942

1943

1944

1945

1946

1947

1948

1949

1950

1951

1952

Source. Banking and Monetary Statistics, 1914-1941, Tables 120 and 122, Banking and Monetary Statistics, 1941-1970, Tables 12.5 and 12.7.

Short-term Private Interest Rate Spreads Over 3-month Treasury Bill
Mar. 1942
Beginning of
Pattern of Rates

Basis Points

July 1947
End of 0.375%
Bill Peg

100

Mar. 1951
Accord

80

60

Prime CP Spread

40
20

Bankers’ Acceptances Spread
0

1937

1938

1939

1940

1941

1942

1943

1944

16

1945

1946

1947

1948

1949

1950

1951

1952

Authorized for public release by the FOMC Secretariat on 04/15/2016
Chart 3

The Treasury Bond Market and Long-Term Interest Rates

Total Bonds Outstanding and Amount of Bonds Held Outside the Federal Reserve

$ billions
140

Mar. 1951
Accord

Mar. 1942
Beginning of
Pattern of Rates

Fed Holdings

120
100
80

Public Holdings

60
40
20
0

1937

1938

1939

1940

1941

1942

1943

1944

1945

1946

1947

1948

1949

1950

1951

1952

Source. Banking and Monetary Statistics, 1914-1941, Tables 146 and 91, and Banking and Monetary Statistics, 1941-1970, Tables 13.2 and 9.5.

Market Yields on Treasury Bonds and Corporate AAA Bonds
Mar. 1942
Beginning of
Pattern of Rates

Percent
3.5

Mar. 1951
Accord

Corporate AAA
Bond Yield

3.0
2.5
2.0

U.S. Treasury
Bond Yield

1.5
1.0
0.5
0.0

1937

1938

1939

1940

1941

1942

1943

1944

1945

1946

1947

1948

1949

1950

1951

1952

Source. Banking and Monetary Statistics 1914-1941, Table 128 and Banking and Monetary Statistics 1941-1970, Table 12.12.
Note: Shading denotes periods during which the Federal Reserve was defending the rate caps by purchasing bonds.

Corporate AAA Bond Spread Over Treasury Bond

Basis Points

Mar. 1942
Beginning of
Pattern of Rates

100

Mar. 1951
Accord

80

60

40

20

0
1937

1938

1939

1940

1941

1942

1943

1944

17

1945

1946

1947

1948

1949

1950

1951

1952

1952

Authorized for public release by the FOMC Secretariat on 04/15/2016
Chart 4

Total and Excess Reserves of Member Banks

Member Bank Reserves

$ billions
25

25

20

20

Total Reserves
15

15

10

10

Required Reserves

5


Excess Reserves
0
1937

1938

1939

1940

1941

1942

1943

1944

1945

1946

1947

1948

1949

1950

1951

1952

1952

Source: Banking and Monetary Statistics, Table 10.2. Note: Shading denotes periods during which the Fed was defending the rate caps by
purchasing bonds.

18

Authorized for public release by the FOMC Secretariat on 04/15/2016
Chart 5

Inflation Rate, 1937-1951

CPI Inflation, monthly rate

Percent
8


6


4


2


0

1937

1938

1939

1940

1941

1942

1943

1944

1945

1946

1947

1948

1949

1950

1951

1952
1952


Source. Ibbotson SBBI 1990 Yearbook, page 161, Exhibit A-14. Note. Shading denotes periods during which the Federal Reserve was defending the
rate caps by purchasing bonds.

19