Bloomberg reports on the coordinated effort by major and even some not-so-major central banks (Canada’s and Switzerland’s central banks are included) to tackle high interbank lending rates. One investor called it to “shock and awe,” which is a worrying comparison. In fact, the plan does not add net liquidity, but merely provides additional one-month term funding to get banks through a particularly acute year-end lending crunch (the Bank of England is also loosening collateral requirements for three month repos). Banks often restrict their operations in anticipation of year end, and banks have been withdrawing from the market earlier than usual this year.
While, as Reuters tells us, there is optimism that Libor will be fixed at a lower level tomorrow, and Libor had the monetary authorities particularly worried (while Treasuries had fallen, spreads over Treasuries have been unusually high, signaling reluctance to lend), some observers said these moves alone would not suffice. More transparency is needed to reassure investors, and that will take more time.
The Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and three other central banks moved in concert to alleviate a credit squeeze threatening global growth, in the biggest act of international economic cooperation since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The Fed said in a statement it will make up to $24 billion available to the ECB and Swiss National Bank to increase the supply of dollars in Europe. The Fed also plans four auctions, including two this month that will add as much as $40 billion, to increase cash in the U.S…..
A Fed official told reporters that the U.S. central bank’s efforts won’t add net liquidity to the banking system. The plans are aimed at buttressing so-called term funding markets, such as for one-month loans, rather than overnight cash. The Fed will balance its various operations, including daily repurchases of Treasury notes and direct loans to banks.
The Bank of England increased the size of reserves it will auction in money market operations and widened the range of collateral it will accept on three-month loans….
“Ultimately the problems we’re facing go beyond illiquidity,” said Larry Hatheway, chief economist at UBS AG in London and a former researcher at the Fed “It’s another step in the healing process, but we have some way to go.”….
The measures are “designed to address elevated pressures in short-term funding markets,” the Fed said in a statement in Washington. The U.S. central bank said it’s considering setting up a permanent arrangement to provide funds to banks through so- called term auction facility operations.
“The interbank market isn’t working very well, and when the interbank market doesn’t work very well globally, this creates some problems,” Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge said in an interview today. “It’s part of our normal role as central banks to try to, if you will, unblock that.”….
“By allowing the Federal Reserve to inject term funds through a broader range of counterparties and against a broader range of collateral than open market operations, this facility could help promote the efficient dissemination of liquidity,” the Fed statement said.
From Reuters (via the Guardian):
Finally, the world’s leading central banks may be gaining traction in their battle to free up liquidity in credit markets, restore c
onfidence in the global banking system and prevent slowing economic growth from, in some cases, spilling over into recession.
But the surprise package of measures announced by major central banks on Wednesday may not be enough on its own to completely fully thaw the credit market freeze and further policy easing — not to mention patience — may be required.
For example, it will take time for banks to confidently lend to counterparties still thought to be saddled with debt-related losses, months of tight credit still has to work its way through the economy and prolonged financial market stress simply won’t be waved away with a magic wand overnight.
Still, the measures which include the creation of a short-term lending facility from the Federal Reserve and a $24 billion currency swap facility between the Fed, European Central Bank and Swiss National Bank, should help ease year-end funding tensions. “This will certainly help alleviate the liquidity squeeze but the main problem is still persuading banks to make liquidity go around, not just sit on it,” said Marco Annunziata, chief economist and global head of fixed income research at UniCredit Markets & Investment Banking.
“For this we also need more transparency on the write-offs and losses, which i think we will get in the next few months. So I do think this is a very important and positive step, but you will also need more clarity to see liquidity conditions normalize in asset markets,” he said.
Banks around the world have racked up losses and debt-related writedowns stemming form the collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage market of more than $60 billion in recent months.
Immediately after the package was unveiled, indicated money market rates for dollar, euro and sterling deposits across the one-three month spectrum fell, suggesting Thursday’s daily London interbank offered rates (Libor) will be fixed lower.