Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury published the second of four planned reports designed to implement the core principles for regulating the U.S. financial system announced in President Trump’s February 2017 Executive Order. This report focuses on capital markets. We wrote about the first report—regarding depository institutions—in June (see here). Future reports are slated to address “the asset management and insurance industries, and retail and institutional investment products and vehicles” and “nonbank financial institutions, financial technology, and financial innovation.”
A central motivation for all this work is to review the extensive regulatory reforms enacted in the aftermath of the 2007-09 financial crisis. President Trump’s stated principles provide an attractive basis for evaluating the effectiveness of Dodd-Frank in making the financial system both more cost-effective and safer. Where have the reforms gone too far? Where have they not gone far enough?
Much of the capital markets report focuses on ways to reduce the regulatory burden, and many of the proposals—which address issues ranging from initial public offerings (IPOs) to securitizations to financial market utilities (FMUs)—could improve market function. However, while they would involve a large number of changes—most of which can be implemented without new legislation (see table)—none of the 100-plus recommendations seem terribly dramatic, nor are they likely to have much impact on the goal of promoting economic growth.
Our overall reaction is that Treasury’s predispositions—which were more clearly evident in the earlier report—encourage doubts. To us, the numerous proposals look lopsided in favor of providing “regulatory relief” even where systemic concerns may persist.... Read More
Prior to the financial crisis of 2007-2009, many people took market liquidity for granted. So, when the ability to convert assets into cash eroded, the issue became one of survival for some intermediaries. Today, both investors and regulators are focusing on “the ability to rapidly execute sizable securities transactions at a low cost and with a limited price impact” (see Fischer). And there has been an intense debate about whether post-crisis regulations themselves have diminished the supply of liquidity (see our earlier post)... Read More
Despite mixed evidence, concerns about a decline of bond market liquidity persist. The typical worry is that a sudden decline in bond demand will cause prices to plunge and have serious knock-on effects.
Naturally, the issue merits attention: episodes in which market liquidity disappears rapidly can be disruptive (witness the flash crashes and flash rallies in various equity and bond markets in recent years). However, these incidents tend to be fleeting. Instead, from the perspective of financial stability, funding liquidity is the greater source of vulnerability...
If you put “FTT” into a search engine, the top results are for “Failure to Thrive.” Proponents of a financial transactions tax should find this disturbing. We find it amusing, but apt.
The idea of taxing the purchase and sale of certain securities has been around for a long time. The British first imposed a stamp duty on secondary market purchases of equity in 1694 – a tax that remains in force today. In 1936, Keynes proposed the imposition of a wider tax with an eye toward reducing volatility. In 1972, following the collapse of the Bretton Woods fixed-exchange-rate system, Nobelist James Tobin famously recommended a tax on currency trading as a kind of capital control that would provide central banks greater discretion in controlling their interest rates and exchange rates. As of 1991, Campbell and Froot list 20 jurisdictions with some form of securities transactions tax. With the move by 11 European Union countries to impose one as of January 1, 2016, the number of countries with an FTT will soon exceed 40... Read More
Everyone seems to be worried about market liquidity – the ability to buy or sell a large quantity of an asset with little or no price impact. Some observers complain that post-crisis financial regulation has reduced market liquidity by forcing traditional market makers – say, in corporate bonds – to withdraw. Others focus on episodes of sudden, unforeseen loss of liquidity – for example, in the equity and Treasury markets – suggesting that structural changes (such as the spread of high-frequency algorithmic trading) are now a source of fragility. We’ve written about these issues before (here and here).
But it is worth taking a step back to ask exactly what it is that we care about. The answer turns out to be complex, so working out remedies will be a big challenge... Read More