All bark but no bite? What does the yield curve tell us about growth?

Carlo Favero, Sebastian Vismara and Iryna Kaminska

The slope of the yield curve has decreased in the US and the UK over the last few years (Chart 1). This development is attracting significant attention, because the yield curve slope (i.e. the difference between longer term government bond yields and shorter term government bond yields) is a popular business cycle indicator, and a fall of longer term yields below shorter term yields (i.e. an ‘inversion’ of the yield curve) has historically been considered as a powerful signal of recessions, particularly in the US.

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CCP porting, are there lessons to be learnt from elsewhere?

Fernando V. Cerezetti and Gerardo Ferrara

Post-crisis regulatory reforms have reshaped and increased the amount of clearing activity in the OTC derivatives market. An emerging issue is so-called “client porting” – i.e. how central counterparties (CCPs) can transfer positions from one clearing member (CM) to another in the aftermath of one member defaulting. In this post, we discuss possible ways to offer clients temporary access to clearing services following a CM default, which we believe could increase the likelihood of successfully porting clients and avoiding further pressure on prices and market stability.

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Opening the machine learning black box

Andreas Joseph

Machine learning models are at the forefront of current advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. However, they are routinely, and rightly, criticised for being black boxes. In this post, I present a novel approach to evaluate machine learning models similar to a linear regression – one of the most transparent and widely used modelling techniques. The framework rests on an analogy between game theory and statistical models. A machine learning model is rewritten as a regression model using its Shapley values, a payoff concept for cooperative games. The model output can then be conveniently communicated, eg using a standard regression table. This strengthens the case for the use of machine learning to inform decisions where accuracy and transparency are crucial.

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What happens when ‘angels fall’?

Yuliya Baranova, Harry Goodacre and Jamie Semark.

Over the past 20 years, the share of outstanding corporate bonds rated BBB, the lowest investment-grade rating, has more than doubled. This has left a large volume of securities on the edge of a cliff, from which they could drop to a high-yield rating and become so-called ‘fallen angels’. Some investors may be forced to sell ‘fallen angels’, for example if their mandate prevents them from holding high-yield bonds. And this selling pressure could push bond prices down, beyond levels consistent with the downgrade news. In this post we explore the impact that sales of ‘fallen angels’ could have on market functioning, finding that they could test the liquidity of the sterling high-yield corporate bond market.

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Building blocks: the useful elements of blockchain

Simon Scorer

Blockchain is often discussed as if it is one single technology. But it is really a combination of several distinct features – decentralisation, distribution, cryptography, and automation – which are combined in different ways by different platforms. Some of these features may have benefits, while others may be unnecessary or even unhelpful – depending on the specific application. In this post, I consider whether and how these features may have different potential applications in financial services. Blockchain will only be truly useful in settings where one of more of these features solves a problem that existing technologies cannot.

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New banking regulation: is it affecting the clearing of derivatives?

Jonathan Smith and Gerardo Ferrara

Just like the beginning of an unforeseen family argument, two key tenets of the post-crisis reforms have unexpectedly started to butt heads: the leverage ratio capital requirement and the mandatory requirement to centrally clear certain over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives.

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Currency will be no longer determined by those in power

Estelle McCool

Estelle McCool, from King’s College London Maths School, is the winner of the second Bank of England/Financial Times schools blog competition. The competition invited students across the UK to address the question “What is the future of money?”

Our world today is dominated by globalisation. We’ve been trading globally since before the Vikings left Scandinavia, yet the face of world trade has been altered by technological revolution and the removal of economic barriers. A global currency seems the next logical step in international integration. But what would provide the prototype of this new money?

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A nearly worthless currency ignites imaginations

Sofia Comper-Cavanna

Sofia Comper-Cavanna, from Burgess Hill Girls School, is a runner-up of the second Bank of England/Financial Times schools blog competition. The competition invited students across the UK to address the question “What is the future of money?”

The Venezuelan bolívar is practically worthless. When money has become so far devalued that the quantity of paper notes used to purchase toilet rolls is more than the quantity of paper you buy, is there any way for society to find a purpose for money again?

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Bank of England and Financial Times schools blogging competition: And the winner is…

Estelle McCool from King’s College London Maths School, whose post, “Currency will be no longer determined by those in power”, is published today on Bank Underground and the FT.

We had more than 200 entries from schools all over the UK, focused on the question “What is the future of money?”. The final selection of a winner and two runners up was made by our panel of judges: Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, Chris Giles, Economics Editor of the Financial Times and Sarah John, Chief Cashier and Director of Notes of the Bank of England. They were impressed by the quality and breadth of the entries, and had a tough time making their final decision. The three posts they selected spanned a range of different issues, including the growth of electronic money as a payment mechanism in Africa, the behavioural and psychological aspects of spending decisions and even the very nature and value of money itself. After careful deliberation and much discussion they selected “Currency will be no longer determined by those in power” as the overall winner, praising the engaging writing, insightful analysis and use of developing economies experiences with new types of currency to inform the global debate on the future of money.

We are also publishing the two posts selected as runners-up, written by Sofia Comper-Cavanna from Burgess Hill Girls School and Utkarsh Dandanayak from Royal Grammar School, Guildford.

Belinda Tracey

Managing Editor