‘As safe as houses’: How a small corner of the US mortgage market nearly brought down the global financial system

Johnny Elliot and Benjamin King

In August 2007 problems were emerging in the US sub-prime mortgage market. Rising numbers of borrowers were getting behind on their repayments, and some investors exposed to the mortgages were warning that they were difficult to value. But projected write-downs were small: less than half a percent of GDP. Just over a year later, Lehman Brothers had failed, the global financial system was on the brink of collapse and the world was plunged into recession. So how did a seemingly small corner of the US mortgage market unleash a global crisis?  And what lessons did the turmoil of autumn 2008 reveal about the financial system?

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Repo Market Functioning: The Role of Capital Regulation

Antonis Kotidis and Neeltje van Horen

The leverage ratio requires banks to hold capital in proportion to the overall size of their balance sheet. As opposed to the capital ratio, risk-weights are irrelevant to its calculation. The leverage ratio therefore makes it relatively more costly for banks to engage in low margin activities. One such activity – which is crucial to the transmission of monetary policy and financial stability – is repo.  This column shows that a tightening of the leverage ratio resulting from a change in reporting requirements incentivised UK dealers to reduce their repo activity, especially affecting small banks and non-bank financial institutions. The UK gilt repo market, however, showed resilience with foreign, non-constrained dealers quickly stepping in.

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Global Financial Cycles and risk premiums

Felix Ward, Moritz Schularick, Òscar Jordà and Alan M Taylor

In April the Bank hosted a workshop organised jointly with the IMF and ECB, on the theme of “International Spillovers of Shocks and Macroeconomic Policies”. In this guest post, the authors of one of the papers presented look at how and why co-movement of international equity prices has increased over time.

Asset markets in advanced economies have become integrated to a degree never seen before in the history of modern finance. This is especially true for global equities starting in the 1990s. We find that this increase in synchronization is primarily driven by fluctuations in risk-appetite rather than in risk-free rates, or in dividends. Moreover, we find that U.S. monetary policy plays a major role in explaining such fluctuations. This transmission channel affects economies with both fixed and floating exchange rates, although the effects are more muted in floating rate regimes.

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Climate change and finance: what role for central banks and financial regulators?

Emanuele Campiglio, Yannis Dafermos, Pierre Monnin, Josh Ryan Collins, Guido Schotten and Misa Tanaka

Climate change poses risks to the financial system. Yet our understanding of these risks is still limited. As we explain in a recent paper published in Nature Climate Change, central banks and financial regulators could contribute to the development of methodologies and modelling tools for assessing climate-related financial risks. If it becomes clear that these risks are substantial, central banks should consider taking them into account in their operations. Both central banks and financial regulators might also consider supporting a low-carbon transition in a more active way so as to contribute to the reduction of these risks.

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Fog in the Channel? How have equity markets reacted to Brexit news?

Srdan Tatomir, Iryna Kaminska, Marek Raczko and Gregory Thwaites

How have equity markets responded to news about Brexit? To answer this we split firms into those whose share prices are particularly sensitive to Brexit-related news, and those which are not.  The latter group provides a “control sample”, against which to assess the impact of individual pieces of news on the former. The ratio of the two groups’ prices gives a barometer of equity market sentiments around Brexit. So far, this measure points to downward pressure on valuation of companies more exposed to Brexit. The bulk of the fall occurred on the night of the referendum, with little movement afterwards, suggesting little additional “news” from subsequent developments beyond the immediate aftermath.

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When Harry Fired Sally: The Gender Punishment Gap

Mark Egan, Gregor Matvos and Amit Seru

Earlier this year the Bank hosted a joint conference with ECB and the Federal Reserve Board on Gender and Career Progression. In this guest post, Mark Egan, Gregor Matvos and Amit Seru summarise the paper they presented on the differential punishment of male and females in the US financial industry.

The gender pay gap – that women earn lower wages than men – is well known. Is that where the disparity in the workplace ends? No. In a new working paper, we document the existence of the “gender punishment gap”. We study the career trajectories of more than 1.2 million men and women working in the US financial advisory industry and examine how their careers evolve following misconduct. Women face more severe punishment at both the firm and industry level for similar missteps. Following an incidence of misconduct, women are 20% more likely to lose their jobs and 30% less likely to find new jobs relative to their male counterparts. The punishment gap is especially prominent in firms with few female managers.

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What a difference a day makes

Matt Roberts-Sklar

What a difference a day makes BANNER

Often when analysing financial markets, we want to know the statistical distribution of some financial market prices, yields or returns. But the ‘true’ distribution is unknown and unknowable. So we estimate the distribution, based on what we’ve observed in the past. In financial markets, adding one data point can make a huge difference. Sharp moves in Italian bond yields in May 2018 are case in point – in this blog I show how a single day’s trading drastically alters the estimated distribution of returns. This is important to keep in mind when modelling financial market returns, e.g. for risk management purposes or financial stability monitoring.

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Algos all go?

Francis Breedon, Louisa Chen, Angelo Ranaldo and Nicholas Vause

Most academic studies find that algorithmic trading improves the quality of financial markets in normal times by boosting market liquidity (so larger trades can be executed more quickly at lower cost) and enhancing price efficiency (so market prices better reflect all value-relevant information). But what about in times of market stress? In a recent paper looking at the removal of the Swiss franc cap, we find that algorithmic trading provided less liquidity than usual, at worse prices, and that its contribution to efficient pricing dropped to near zero. Market quality benefits from a diversity of participants pursuing different trading strategies, but it seems this was undermined in this episode by commonalities in the way algorithms responded.

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Is the tail wagging the dog? The impact of VIX exchange traded products on equity volatility

Olga Maizels

Volatility returned to markets in early February, sparked by strong US wage growth data.  After  months of calm, the S&P 500 equity index fell by 4% on 5 February and the VIX – a measure of US equity volatility that is sometimes referred to as Wall Street’s “fear gauge” – experienced its largest one-day move in its 28-year history.  Interestingly, measures of volatility in other markets, including interest rates and currencies, moved by much less.  So what caused the outsized spike in the VIX?  Some of the rise was linked to rebalancing flows associated with VIX exchange-traded products (ETPs), which can amplify moves in the volatility market.  The events have also led to some questions whether developments in VIX ETPs can also affect the S&P 500 itself –whether the ‘tail’ can wag the ‘dog’.

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What did the CBPS do to corporate bond yields?

Calebe de Roure, Ben Morley and Lena Boneva

In August 2016 the MPC announced a package of easing measures, including the Corporate Bond Purchase Scheme (CBPS). In a recent staff working paper, we explore the announcement impact of the CBPS, using the so called “difference in differences” (or “DID”) approach. Overall – to deliver the punchline to eager readers – this analytical technique suggests that the announcement caused spreads on CBPS eligible bonds to tighten by 13bps, compared with comparable euro or dollar denominated bonds (Charts 1b, 2). Continue reading “What did the CBPS do to corporate bond yields?”