Market liquidity and banking liquidity: linkages, vulnerabilities and the role of disclosure
During the course of 2007, global financial markets went through noticeable periods of turbulence. In particular, complex credit markets suffered a marked set-back. Oddly, turmoil in these fairly new markets contributed to severe liquidity shortages in short-term money and interbank markets, triggering repeated large-scale monetary interventions by central banks worldwide. Recent events have thus demonstrated that banks are considerably intertwined in fi nancial markets; dependent on and exposed to them as regards liquidity. The aim of this article is to better understand this complex relationship and to frame relevant aspects of the latest fi nancial market turmoil accordingly. In particular, we explore the mechanics of a market liquidity crisis and its impact on individual banks’ liquidity, as well as possible spillovers to other banks. These dynamics of course raise a number of policy issues. Here, we focus on the role that greater disclosure to markets on banks’ liquidity situation itself could play as a market-stabilising device. In summary, global banks have increasingly integrated into capital markets and in terms of both funding and asset liquidity rely considerably on functioning, liquid financial markets. This is particularly visible in the shift towards secured lending transactions; growth of the securitisation market; the broadening of collateral to encompass complex products with shifting levels of market liquidity; and the rise in committed credit or liquidity lines to sponsored special purpose vehicles (SPVs) and corporates. While some of the recent developments in fi nancial market liquidity can be attributed to technological progress, importantly, more temporary factors resulting from an environment of low interest rates have accelerated market liquidity beyond sustainable levels. While, per se, banks’ ability to “liquify” assets represents a positive development which should help mitigate the fundamental liquidity risk that banks face, increased sensitivity with respect to market liquidity risk has also created new vulnerabilities with respect to sudden reversals of market liquidity. Importantly, adverse circumstances could trigger a combined increase in demands on liquid assets via margin requirements and activation of credit lines and reduced liquidity of assets and related market funding sources. The severe loss of liquidity in asset-backed securities markets and its repercussions on global interbank markets during 2007 provide a vivid illustration of the channels that link market liquidity to banks’ funding and asset liquidity and of the wider externalities of idiosyncratic liquidity shocks. How can these risks be addressed? Together with active liquidity management, disclosure may represent one tool through which such vulnerability may be reduced. A large literature exists on the merits of transparency in banking. Greater transparency should alleviate refi nancing frictions related to asymmetric information. When information problems are however deeper and concern aggregate uncertainty, improved disclosure on credit fundamentals may be less effective to restore confidence. Instead, better information on liquidity itself may be necessary. We explore the current availability of information on banks’ liquidity and funding risks. Overall, information appears to be limited –failing to disclose in a comprehensive and comparable way the underlying dynamics of liquidity demands and funding sources. But liquidity is volatile and banks are subject to inherent liquidity mismatches. Can greater disclosure in this area ever be a useful tool to reinforce market discipline in a systemically stabilising fashion? While this question merits serious reflection, the 2007 market events have shown that current information gaps are large and need addressing.
Volume (Year): (2008)
Issue (Month): 11 (February)
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