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Stress tests have become an important method of assessing whether financial institutions have enough capital to operate in bad economic conditions. Under the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, both the Federal Reserve and large U.S. bank holding companies (BHCs) are required to do annual stress tests and to disclose these results to the public. While the BHCs’ and the Federal Reserve’s projections are made under the same macroeconomic scenario, the results differ, primarily because of differences in the models used to make the projections. In this post, we look at the 2014 stress test projections made by the eighteen largest U.S. BHCs and by the Federal Reserve and compare them to similar numbers from 2013. We are particularly interested in the question of whether the BHCs’ and the Federal Reserve’s results are converging over time, since such convergence could indicate decreased diversity of stress testing approaches in the banking industry.
One of the lessons from the recent financial crisis is the need for securities dealers to have durable sources of funding. As evidenced by the demise of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, during times of stress, cash lenders may pull away from firms or funding markets more broadly. Lengthening the tenor of secured funding is one way for a dealer to mitigate the risk of losing funding when market conditions are strained. In this post, we use clearing bank tri-party repo data to examine the degree to which dealers are lengthening the maturities of their sources of funding. (Aggregate statistics using these data are available here.) We focus on less liquid securities because it is for these assets that the durability of funding matters the most. We find substantial progress overall, with the weighted-average maturity (WAM) of funding of the less liquid securities more than doubling from January 2011 to May 2014. Nevertheless, there is currently a wide dispersion in dealer-level WAM, raising questions as to whether all dealers have enough durability in their funding of risk assets.
Meru Bhanot, Beverly Hirtle, Anna Kovner, and James Vickery
Central banks and bank supervisors have increasingly relied on capital stress testing as a supervisory and macroprudential tool. Stress tests have been used by central banks and supervisors to assess the resilience of individual banking companies to adverse macroeconomic and financial market conditions as a way of gauging additional capital needs at individual firms and as a means of assessing the overall capital strength of the banking system. In this post, we describe a framework for assessing the impact of various macroeconomic scenarios on the capital and performance of the U.S. banking system—the Capital and Loss Assessment under Stress Scenarios (CLASS) model—and present some of its key outputs.
This post is the second of two Liberty Street Economics posts on trade finance.
Banks play a critical role in international trade by offering letters of credit (LCs) that substantially reduce the risk faced by exporters. As we discuss in our recent New York Fed staff report, the use of LCs by U.S. exporters has been on an upward trend in recent years. Two reasons for this may be that firms rely more heavily on LCs in financing export sales when interest rates are low and when uncertainty in global markets is high. Furthermore, the use of LCs differs across countries. Specifically, LCs largely support exports to countries with intermediate levels of risk. This is likely because the fees for exports to higher-risk countries eventually become too substantial.
This post is the first of two Liberty Street Economics posts on trade finance.
Banks facilitate international trade by providing financing and guarantees to importers and exporters. This is a big business for U.S. banks, but it has been difficult to estimate exactly how big due to a lack of data. In our recent New York Fed staff report, we shed some light on the size and structure of this market using information on banks’ trade finance claims available internally at the New York Fed. This post, the first of two, shows how trade finance has become more important in recent years, particularly with firms exporting to Asia. It also reveals that the size of the trade finance business varies widely across countries, with distance and shipping times from the United States being important factors. The second post will look at how trade finance is tied to country risk.
Ezechiel Copic, Luis Gonzalez, Caitlin Gorback, Blake Gwinn, and Ernst Schaumburg
The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) auctioned its first floating-rate note (FRN) on January 29, 2014. With this auction, Treasury introduced the first new marketable debt instrument since Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS) in 1997. The new two-year FRN is a fixed-principal security with quarterly interest payments and interest rates indexed to the thirteen-week Treasury bill. In this post, we will discuss Treasury’s reasons for adopting an FRN as well as the existing FRN markets, expected FRN market participants, and results of the first FRN Treasury security auction.
This post is the sixth in a series of six Liberty Street Economics posts on liquidity issues.
Prior to the Great Recession, the focus of bank regulation was on bank capital with little consensus about the need for liquidity regulation. This view was in contrast with an existing body of academic research that pointed to inefficiencies in environments with strictly private provision of liquidity, via either interbank markets or credit line agreements. In spite of theoretical results pointing to the possible benefits of liquidity regulation for reducing fire sales in crises or the risk of panics due to coordination failures, a common view was that its costs might exceed its benefits, especially given a situation in which there is an active lender of last resort (LLR).
This post is the fifth in a series of six Liberty Street Economics posts on liquidity issues.
One of the most innovative and potentially far-reaching consequences of regulatory reform since the financial crisis has been the development of liquidity regulations for the banking system. While bank regulation traditionally focuses on requiring a minimum amount of capital, liquidity requirements impose a minimum amount of liquid assets. In this post, we provide a conceptual framework that allows us to evaluate the impact of liquidity requirements on economic growth, the creation of systemic risk, and household welfare. Importantly, the framework addresses both liquidity requirements and capital requirements, thus allowing the study of trade-offs and complementarities between these regulatory tools. The reader will find a more detailed discussion in our recent staff report “Liquidity Policies and Systemic Risk.”
This post is the fourth in a series of six Liberty Street Economics posts on liquidity issues.
Liquidity transformation—funding longer-term assets with short-term liabilities—is one of the main functions that banks provide. However, this liquidity mismatch exposes banks to liquidity risk. This risk was clearly demonstrated in the 2008 financial crisis when banks’ funding liquidity dried up and their market liquidity evaporated. Since the crisis, liquidity risk management has become one of the top priorities for regulators, and new liquidity requirements, such as the Liquidity Coverage Ratio and the Net Stable Funding Ratio, have been proposed in Basel III, apart from conventional capital requirements. In this post, we present a new measure of liquidity mismatch—the liquidity stress ratio (LSR). We analyze how it has evolved for large banks, and study the correlation between the LSR and key bank characteristics over time.
This post is the third in a series of six Liberty Street Economics posts on liquidity issues.
Imagine that many large and levered banks suffer heavy losses and must quickly sell assets to reduce their leverage. We expect the market price of the assets sold to decline, at least temporarily. As a result, any other financial institutions that happen to hold the same assets will experience balance sheet losses through no fault of their own —a negative fire-sale externality. In this post, we show that the vulnerability to fire-sale externalities was high during the crisis and that the capital injections of the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) helped reduce it considerably. In fact, we argue that given the total amount injected, TARP was close to optimal. Fire sales are difficult to isolate and observe directly, especially in a crisis when multiple shocks concurrently afflict the financial system. But it is a bit less difficult to quantify the vulnerability of the financial sector to fire-sale externalities. To do so, consider the following hypothetical sequence of events, which captures the main aspects of any fire sale:
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