Many commentators on the global financial crisis identified ‘fire sales’ as one of the key mechanisms by which shocks to banks were amplified and transmitted across the wider financial system. When firms in distress sell assets held by other institutions at discounted prices, losses can spread through the financial system as prices fall, amplifying the initial stress. In a working paper published last year, we explored this mechanism by presenting a new model of fire sales. In doing so, we answer the following questions: Which types of financial shocks combine to produce fire sales? How can banks optimally liquidate their portfolios when forced to do so? How big a risk are bank fire sales?
Every minute of the day, Google returns over 3.5 million searches, Instagram users post nearly 50,000 photos, and Tinder matches about 7,000 times. We all produce and consume data, and financial firms are key contributors to this trend. Indeed, the global business models of many firms have amplified the data-intensity of the financial services industry. But potential fragmentation of the global data supply chain now poses a novel risk to financial services. In this blog post, we first discuss the importance of data flows for financial services, and then potential risks from blockages to these flows.
Starting today, Bank Underground (BU) is launching a special series of ‘Covid-19 Briefings’. These posts are different to our regular posts – rather than containing primary analysis or the author’s own research, they instead aim to summarise key lessons from the early literature on a particular area of the economics of Covid-19. Each post focuses on a different area, and aims to provide an introduction to key papers, rather than a comprehensive overview of all the literature. As with any BU post, they are the views of the authors, not necessarily those of the Bank. We hope our readers find them helpful in understanding the new, rapidly developing and fast growing body of work on the economics of Covid-19.
Comments will only appear once approved by a moderator, and are only published where a full name is supplied. Bank Underground is a blog for Bank of England staff to share views that challenge – or support – prevailing policy orthodoxies. The views expressed here are those of the authors, and are not necessarily those of the Bank of England, or its policy committees.
The average house in the UK is worth ten times what it was in 1980. Consumer prices are only three times higher. So house prices have more than trebled in real terms in just over a generation. In the 100 years leading up to 1980 they only doubled. Recent commentary on this blog and elsewhere argues that this unprecedented rise in house prices can be explained by one factor: lower interest rates. But this simple explanation might be too simple. In this blog post – which analyses the data available before Covid-19 hit the UK – we show that the interest rates story doesn’t seem to fit all of the facts. Other factors such as credit conditions or supply constraints could be important too.
Andreas Joseph, Christiane Kneer, Neeltje van Horen and Jumana Saleheen
Financial crises affect firm growth not only in the short-run, but even more so in the long-run. Some firms permanently gain while others lose and cash is a crucial asset to have when the credit cycle turns. As we show in a new Staff Working Paper, having cash at hand allows firms to continue to invest during the crisis while industry rivals without cash have to divest. This gives cash-rich firms an important competitive edge that not only benefits them during the crisis but that gives them an advantage that lasts way beyond the crisis years.
Meteorologists and insurers talk about the “1-in-100 year storm”. Should regulators do the same for financial crises? In this post, we argue that false confidence in people’s ability to calculate probabilities of rare events might end up worsening the crises regulators are trying to prevent.
Marco Bardoscia, Gerardo Ferrara and Nicholas Vause
Participants in derivative markets collect collateral from their counterparties to help secure claims against them should they default. This practice has become more widespread since the 2007-08 financial crisis, making derivative markets safer. However, it increases potential ‘margin calls’ for counterparties to top up their collateral. If future calls exceed available liquid assets, counterparties would have to borrow. Could money markets meet this extra demand? In a recent paper, we simulate stress-scenario margin calls for many of the largest derivative-market participants and see if they could meet them – including because of payments from upstream counterparties – without borrowing. We compare the sum of any shortfalls with daily cash borrowing in international money markets.
The financial crisis exposed banks’ vulnerability to a type of risk associated with derivatives: credit valuation adjustment (CVA) risk. Despite being a major driver of losses – around $43 billion across 10 banks according to one estimate – there had been no capital requirement to cushion banks against these losses. New rules in 2014 changed this.
Central banks accept a wide range of assets from participants as collateral in their liquidity operations – but can this lead to undesired side effects? Such an approach can enhance overall liquidity in the financial sector, by allowing participants to transform illiquid collateral into more liquid assets. But, as a result, the central bank then needs to manage the greater potential risks of holding these riskier assets on its own balance sheet. Financially weaker participants may be encouraged to hold these assets if they can benefit from the higher returns, which compensate for the greater risk. In our recent paper we investigate whether central banks’ acceptance of a broad set of collateral incentivises the concentration of risk by examining the experience of the Bank of England (BoE).
Since the mid-1980s, the average real (RPI-adjusted) UK house price has more than doubled, rising around one and a half times as fast as incomes. Economists’ diagnoses of the root cause varies – from anaemic supply, to the consequences of financial deregulation, or even a bubble. In our recent paper, we explore the role of the long-run decline in the real risk-free rate in driving up house prices. Low interest rates push up asset prices and reduce borrowing costs. We find the decline in the real risk-free rate can account for all of the rise in house prices relative to incomes.