Purchases of government bonds have been a prominent tool that has helped central banks meet inflation objectives when short-term interest rates have been constrained by their effective lower bounds. But how does QE work? There are a range of channels through which QE can/might operate, though there remains uncertainty over the relative size and importance of these channels. This post presents new evidence from granular transaction data consistent with a portfolio rebalancing channel. Specifically, during the Bank’s latest QE programme (known as QE5) investors were found to have bought less new gilt issuance and bought more risky assets like corporate bonds.
In recent years, the volatility of pension fund deficits has been dampened by pension fund assets behaving more similarly to pension fund liabilities. This is partly because bonds make up a bigger share of assets than a decade ago, and partly because bonds and equities are moving more closely than before. Both factors have increased the correlation of assets with pension funds’ liabilities which tend to be intrinsically bond-like. This matters because the volatility of pension deficits can affect pension fund investment decisions. Given their size, changes in pension fund asset allocation can materially affect asset prices.