Procyclicality mechanisms in the financial system: what we know and some open questions

Robert Czech, Simon Jurkatis, Arjun Mahalingam, Laura Silvestri and Nick Vause

Financial markets reflect changes in the economy. But sometimes they amplify them too. Both of these roles were evident as the Covid-19 (Covid) pandemic materialised. As the economic outlook deteriorated, risky asset prices fell in reflection of that. And those falls were amplified as some investors reacted by liquidating assets. That also amplified increases in financing costs for companies issuing new debt or equity, which could have further damaged economic prospects. Various ‘procyclical’ mechanisms contributed to this macrofinancial feedback loop, as shown in Figure 1. This post reviews findings from research about these particular mechanisms, covering (i) how they work, (ii) how strong they are and (iii) how they might be mitigated. And, where there are gaps, it suggests new research.

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Decomposing changes in the functioning of the sterling repo market from 2014 to 2018

Rupal Patel

Repo markets form part of the plumbing of the financial system. They allow participants to borrow cash against collateral and buy back this collateral at a higher price at the end of the transaction. When there is a blockage in repo it has repercussions on financial markets. Since 2014 there have been significant changes in repo functioning, causing policymakers to question why these changes are happening and what it means for financial stability. Our paper addresses these questions. We find fluctuations in repo were driven by changes in dealers’ supply in the pre-Covid period 2014–18. We subsequently consider the possible role that the introduction of the leverage ratio played in the willingness of intermediaries to respond to demands for cash.

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What to expect when they’re expecting

Maren Froemel, Mike Joyce and Iryna Kaminska

Introduction

During 2020 the MPC announced a further £450 billion of QE purchases, slightly more than the total amount of assets purchased over the preceding ten years, taking the target QE stock to £875 billion of gilt holdings and £20 billion of sterling investment-grade corporate bonds. We study the high-frequency reaction of gilt markets to these QE announcements in light of the surprises to market expectations of the future QE path. We find the yield reactions to be broadly consistent with news about the expected medium-term stock of QE. This is in line with recent commentary, which has focused on the ‘pace of purchases’, as a faster/slower pace translated into a larger/lower stock of expected purchases, and could capture the effects of the local supply channel. The reaction to news about purchase pace could also be potentially consistent with an impact on expected liquidity premia or expected policy rates.

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A fistful of dollars: transmission of global funding shocks to emerging markets

Aakriti Mathur and Shekhar Hari Kumar

Emerging markets (EMs) have become more exposed to the global financial cycle in recent years. Positive liquidity shocks – that is, a loosening of global funding market conditions – have led to exchange rate appreciations, reductions in long-term bond yields, stock market booms, and increased gross capital flows to EMs (Bhattarai et al (2018)). Negative liquidity shocks on the other hand constitute a tightening of financial conditions, reducing lending and real investment (Bruno and Shin (2015) and Avdjiev et al (2018)).

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Capital flights during Covid-19

Fernando Eguren-Martin, Cian O’Neill, Andrej Sokol and Lukas von dem Berge

While planes were grounded, capital flew out of emerging market economies in response to the acceleration in the spread of the virus in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Was this capital flight predictable once you account for the sudden deterioration in the global financial environment? In this post we present a model that helps to think about how financial conditions and international capital flows are linked. We then apply this methodology to events observed between March and May 2020, and find that the model predicted a large increase in the likelihood of capital flight. However, the scale of outflows was abnormally large even once the sharp tightening in financial conditions is accounted for.

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When bigger isn’t better: UK firms’ equity price performance during the Covid-19 pandemic

Tommaso Aquilante, David Bholat, Andreas Joseph, Riccardo M Masolo, Tim Munday and David van Dijcke

Background

Covid-19 (Covid) has had heterogeneous effects on different groups of people. For example, it’s had larger negative impacts on contact-intense occupations (Leibovici, Santacreu and Famiglietti (2020)), low wage earners (Joyce and Xu (2020)) and low-income households (Surico, Känzig and Hacioglu (2020) and Chetty et al (2020)). In this blog, we show that UK listed firms have been heterogeneously impacted too (compare Hassan et al (2020); Griffith, Levell and Stroud (2020)). Surprisingly, small firms’ stock prices have been more resilient on average. Or, to put it differently, being bigger hasn’t been better for firms during the pandemic. However, being big with a modern tilt towards intangibles turned out to be beneficial too.

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Hubble? Bubble? Valuation trouble?

Can Gao, Ian Martin, Arjun Mahalingam and Nicholas Vause

Since Covid-19-related crashes in March, major stock indices around the world have bounced back. This is despite little or no recovery in corporate earnings expectations. As a result, forward-looking price-to-earnings ratios have increased, rising above long-run average values in most large advanced economies and approaching record highs in the United States. Commenting on such valuations, some market participants have suggested there is ‘a great deal of optimism priced into the market’ and that stock prices ‘cannot defy economic gravity indefinitely’. This post takes a closer look at stock valuations, focusing on the UK, and drawing both on a textbook model and new research from academia.

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Market fragility in the pandemic era

Gerardo Ferrara, Maria Flora and Roberto Renò

Financial markets process orders faster now than ever before. However, they remain prone to occasional dysfunction where prices move away from fundamentals. One important type of market fragility is flash events. Identifying such events is crucial to understanding them and their effects. This post displays the results from a new methodology to identify these, but also longer lasting V-shaped events, as we show here with an application to three sovereign bond markets.

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Informed trading in government bond markets

Robert Czech, Shiyang Huang, Dong Lou and Tianyu Wang

Government bond yields serve as a benchmark for virtually all other rates in financial markets. But what factors drive these yields? One view is that yields only move notably when important news hit the market, for example monetary policy announcements. Others suspect that some investors have an information advantage due to their access to costly information (e.g. data providers) or more accurate interpretations of public information. In a recent paper, we show that two investor groups – hedge funds and mutual funds – have an information edge in the UK government bond (gilt) market, and that these two investor types operate through different trading strategies and over different horizons.

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Covid-19 briefing: cross-border dollar funding

Saleem Bahaj and Fernando Eguren-Martin

The US dollar has a dominant role in the international financial system. The fact that trade and cross-border investment are overwhelmingly dollar-denominated means that non-US banks are heavily reliant on dollar funding (Aldasoro and Ehlers (2018)). This funding dried up during the Covid-19 epidemic, prompting the use of central bank swap lines as a policy response. This post looks at recent research on why dollar funding dried up in March, the efficacy of swap lines and the implications for cross-border banking, exchange rates and the international financial system.  

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