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The 2012 Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley for their work on matching problems. Two-sided matching problems, like assigning jobs to workers or dorm rooms to students, can be complicated enough. But sometimes the matching problem can be even more difficult. It may be that an item supplied by Alice is useful to Bob, but Bob has nothing of value to give to Alice. If, however, the item supplied by Bob is valuable to Charlie, then there is the potential for a matching chain. Charlie gives something to Alice, Alice gives something to Bob, and Bob gives something to Charlie. Such chains can by themselves be very complicated, and work must be done to identify chains that provide the most benefit. The first Nobel laureate mentioned above has done considerable work designing matching mechanisms used in kidney exchange. But why is all of this necessary? Why isn’t there simply a market with prices?
Tobias Adrian, Richard Crump, Peter Diamond, and Rui Yu
Expectations about the path of interest rates matter for many economic decisions. Three sources for obtaining information about such expectations are available. The first is extrapolation from historical data. The second consists of surveys of expectations. The third are expectations drawn from financial market prices, often referred to as market expectations. The last are usually considered to be model-based expectations, because, generally, a model is needed to reliably extract expectations from current prices. In this post, we explain the need for and usage of term structure models for extracting far in the future interest rate expectations from market rates, which can be used to discount the long run. We will illustrate our arguments by discussing the measurement of long-run discount rates for Social Security.
In a previous post, we discussed bitcoin miners’ incentives to undertake a 51 percent attack given the current condition of the bitcoin market. We also speculated that high profits and free entry would cause more miners to enter the market, driving marginal mining profits to zero in the long run. Since then, the price of a bitcoin has declined over 40 percent and both the hash rate and the difficulty level of the bitcoin mining problem, which adjusts automatically to changes in the hash rate, appear to have leveled off. Our most recent calculations suggest the long run may have arrived.
The U.S. Treasury market is one of the deepest and most liquid markets in the world, with significant trading in both Treasury futures and benchmark securities. In this post, we examine the pattern of trading activity in these instruments and document the substantial increase in cross-market trading (simultaneous order placement and execution in multiple markets) in recent years, highlighting the impact of technological advancements that allow nearly instantaneous trading across assets and trading platforms. Identifying the growing role played by high-frequency trading in U.S. Treasury markets is important for understanding the price discovery process. Our findings suggest that price discovery takes place on both futures and cash markets and that cross-market trading helps maintain the tight link between the two.
“Flash events,” extremely large price moves and reversals over just a few minutes, have occurred in some of the world’s most liquid markets in recent years. What’s made these events remarkable is that they seem to have been unrelated to any discernable fundamental economic news that may have taken place during the events. In this post, we consider a few of the important similarities and differences among three major flash events in the U.S. equities, euro–dollar foreign exchange (FX), and U.S. Treasury markets that occurred between May 2010 and March 2015. All three flash events involved high trading volumes and long-term impacts on depth, but the U.S. Treasury event stands out in terms of both price volatility and price continuity.
Tobias Adrian, Michael Fleming, Daniel Stackman, and Erik Vogt
First in a five-part series
The issue of financial market liquidity has received tremendous attention lately. This partly arises from market participants’ concerns that regulatory and structural changes have reduced dealers’ market making abilities, but also from events such as the taper tantrum and the flash rally, in which Treasury prices fluctuated sharply amid seemingly little news. But is there really evidence of a sustained reduction in Treasury market liquidity?
Tobias Adrian, Michael Fleming, and Ernst Schaumburg
Market participants and policymakers have recently raised concerns about market liquidity—the ability to buy and sell securities quickly, at any time, at minimal cost. Market liquidity supports the efficient allocation of capital through financial markets, which is a catalyst for sustainable economic growth. Changes in market liquidity, whether due to regulation, changes in market structure, or otherwise, are therefore of great interest to policymakers and market participants alike.
Euro area sovereign bond yields fell to record lows and the euro weakened after the European Central Bank (ECB) dramatically expanded its asset purchase program in early 2015. Some analysts predicted massive financial outflows spilling out of the euro area and affecting global markets as investors sought higher yields abroad. These arguments ignore balance of payments accounting, which requires any financial outflow from the euro area to be matched by a similar-sized inflow, absent a quick and substantial current account improvement. The focus on cross-border financial flows also is misguided since, according to asset pricing principles, the euro and global asset prices can move without any change in financial outflows.
In August 2007, at the onset of the recent financial crisis, the Federal Reserve encouraged banks to borrow from the discount window (DW) but few did so. This lack of DW borrowing has been widely attributed to stigma—concerns that, if discount borrowing were detected, depositors, creditors, and analysts could interpret it as a sign of financial weakness. In this post, we review the history of the DW up until 2003, when the current DW regime was established, and argue that some past policies may have inadvertently contributed to a reluctance to borrow from the DW that persists to this day.
On the crisp morning of January 24, 1848, James Marshall, a carpenter in the employ of John Sutter, traveled up the American River to inspect a lumber mill that Sutter had ordered constructed close to timber sources. Marshall arrived to find that overnight rains had washed away some of the tailrace the crew had been digging. But as Marshall examined the channel, something shiny caught his eye, and as he bent over to retrieve the object, his heart began to pound. Gold! Marshall and Sutter tried to contain the secret, but rumors soon spread to Monterey, San Francisco, and beyond—and the rush was on. In this edition of Crisis Chronicles, we describe the excitement of the California Gold Rush and explain how it constituted an inflationary shock because the United States was tied to the gold standard at the time.
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