Central banks pump up the dollars

As banks hoard cash and lending dries up, Fed plus 5 to pump $180 billion into system.

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By Chris Isidore, CNNMoney.com senior writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The Federal Reserve and five other central banks around the globe announced joint efforts early Thursday to try to pump an additional $180 billion into the battered global financial system.

The Fed joined with the European Central Bank, the Swiss National Bank, the Bank of Japan, Bank of England and Bank of Canada in the coordinated effort.

"These measures, together with other actions taken in the last few days by individual central banks, are designed to improve the liquidity conditions in global financial markets," said the Fed's statement. "The central banks continue to work together closely and will take appropriate steps to address the ongoing pressures."

The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the Fed rescue of insurance giant American International Group (AIG, Fortune 500) this week has led to a tightening of credit in global markets.

Major banks have become even more reluctant to lend to each other on an overnight basis because of worries about unknown financial problems with other institutions and a desire to hoard cash to protect themselves.

Even money market managers are reluctant to loan money to banks, preferring to buy short-term Treasurys instead. That demand has driven up the price of Treasurys and driven down the yield, or interest rate, that those government instruments pay.

The yield on the 3-month Treasury bill fell briefly into negative territory for the first time since 1940 and closed Wednesday at 0.04%.

"Liquidity has never been in shorter supply in the credit markets during this painful episode," said Kevin Giddis, managing director and head of fixed income for investment bank Morgan Keegan.

Bond prices slipped narrowly, lifting yields only slightly. The three-month had a yield of 0.105% in early trading. Giddis said the markets are looking for a more permanent solution than the one announced by the central banks Thursday.

"Based on nearly every metric that's used in our business, a clear message has emerged over the last couple of days' of trading activity: those with capital are reluctant to lend until the near term visibility becomes a little more certain," he added.

The New York Federal Reserve Bank Thursday also pumped $55 billion into the nation's financial system. That comes on top of $70 billion that it pumped into the system Tuesday.

The announcement of coordinated action Thursday helps provide dollars to foreign banks that needed the U.S. currency to transact business, but had been unable to access the Fed directly the way U.S. banks can. While the Bank of England and European Central had pumped money into their own financial systems earlier this week, that had been in the own currency, not dollars.

The ECB will get a $55 billion increase in the dollars it can loan out, doubling what it had already received under an earlier swap program, while the Swiss National Bank will receive an additional $15 billion on top of an earlier $12 billion program.

The Bank of Japan, Bank of England and Bank of Canada set up new swap programs with the Fed, with Japan getting $60 billion, England getting $50 billion and Canada getting $10 billion.

The swap program provides essentially no risk for the Fed since the U.S. central bank is receiving the same amount of cash back from its foreign counterparts.  To top of page

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