Graeme Douglas, Nicholas Vause and Joseph Noss
Risky asset prices plummeted following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Whilst driven partly by deteriorations in fundamental news, these falls were amplified by ‘flighty’ investors that sold at the first signs of trouble. Conventional wisdom dictates that life insurers, with their long-term investment horizons, are better placed than most to ‘lean against the wind’ by looking through short-term fluctuations in asset prices. They could thereby stabilise prices when others are selling. But the structure of regulations can greatly influence insurers’ investment incentives. Using our model of insurers’ asset allocations, we find that new ‘Solvency II’ regulations reduce UK life insurers’ willingness to act as the white knights of financial markets, particularly in the face of falling interest rates.
Proponents of private cryptocurrencies argue they are a better store of value than traditional “fiat” currency. But even if a cryptocurrency’s value cannot be inflated away by large supply increases, that doesn’t automatically mean its value is stable in terms of ability to buy goods and services.
Joseph Noss and David Murphy
For some years, financial regulations have been becoming more complex. This has led some prominent commentators, regulators and regulatory bodies, to set out the case for simplicity, including Adrian Blundell–Wignall, Andy Haldane, Basel Committee and Dan Tarullo. In his contribution, Haldane illustrates how simple rules can achieve complex tasks: by simply adjusting its speed to keep its angle of gaze fixed, a dog can manage the complex task of catching a Frisbee. In this post, however, we argue that some financial risks are hard to catch with simple rules – they are more like a boomerang’s flight path than that of a Frisbee. Complex rules can sometimes do a better job at catching risk; and simple rules can be less prudent.
In recent years, the volatility of pension fund deficits has been dampened by pension fund assets behaving more similarly to pension fund liabilities. This is partly because bonds make up a bigger share of assets than a decade ago, and partly because bonds and equities are moving more closely than before. Both factors have increased the correlation of assets with pension funds’ liabilities which tend to be intrinsically bond-like. This matters because the volatility of pension deficits can affect pension fund investment decisions. Given their size, changes in pension fund asset allocation can materially affect asset prices.
Paolo Siciliani and Daniel Norris
Asset managers make it more convenient for savers to diversify their investments in stock markets. They are also in a better position to monitor the managers of firms in their portfolios, even if they adopted a passive investment strategy. However, it has been argued that competition might be weakened when firms competing in concentrated industries, such as airlines, share the same small number of institutional investors as their top shareholders.
On 16 February 2017, following the release of the ECB’s January meeting accounts, French government bond (OAT) futures experienced a so-called ‘mini flash’, with yields falling 11bps within 85 seconds, in a period of significant illiquidity, before retracing most of the move within eight minutes.
Jeremy Chiu, Richard Harris and Evarist Stoja
Financial market shocks: do they matter for the economy?
Financial markets are intrinsically volatile, constantly fluctuating in response to a wide variety of news. Often, these shocks to volatility are short-lived, perhaps reflecting a one-off adjustment in asset prices or the market’s overreaction to news, and have a tendency to dissipate rapidly. But sometimes they lead to a sustained increase in market volatility, reflecting a deeper uncertainty over the future macroeconomy that can take time to resolve itself. Indeed, a considerable body of empirical evidence suggests that financial market volatility is made up of two components: a slowly varying ‘core’ component and a ‘transitory’ component that dissipates quickly. We develop a way to identify each type and estimate how they affect the broader economy.
Marek Raczko, Mo Wazzi and Wen Yan
Economists view the United Kingdom as a small-open economy. In economists’ jargon it means that the UK is susceptible to foreign shocks, but that UK shocks do not influence other countries. This definitely was not the case in 2016. The result of the EU referendum, even though it was a UK-specific policy event, had a global impact. Our analysis shows that the Brexit vote not only had a significant impact on UK bond and equity markets, but also spilled over significantly to other advanced economies. Moreover, this approach suggests that the initial Brexit-shock has only partially reversed and still remains a drag on global bond yields and equity prices, though there are wide error bands around that conclusion.
In 2015, the global leaders gathered in Paris acknowledged that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet, and agreed to work together to limit global warming well below 2°C. Achieving this goal requires global investment to shift away from fossil fuel extraction and power generation towards developing low-carbon energy sources and increasing energy efficiency in the coming years. Retail investors could play a big part in this process if more ‘green’ financial products are marketed on online investment platforms that make it easy for people to understand, assess and compare the climate-related risks in alternative products.
Fernando V. Cerezetti and Luis Antonio Barron G. Vicente
A vestigial structure is an anatomical feature that no longer seems to have a purpose in the current form of an organism. Goosebumps, for instance, are considered to be a vestigial protection reflex in humans. Default funds, a pool of financial resources formed of clearing member (CM) contributions that can be tapped in a default event, are a ubiquitous part of central counterparty (CCP) safeguard structures. Their history is intertwined with the history of clearinghouses, dating back to a time when the financial sector resembled a Gentlemen’s Club. Here we would like to address the following – perhaps impertinent – question: are current mutualisation processes in CCPs a historical vestige, like goosebumps, or do they still hold an important risk reducing role?