Fed Has Acted Yet Dollar Funding Markets Remain Under Pressure
Comment of the Day

March 16 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fed Has Acted Yet Dollar Funding Markets Remain Under Pressure

This article by Alexandra Harris for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Over the past week, the Federal Reserve has hit the U.S. dollar funding markets with a barrage of liquidity and tools to ensure they remain lubricated. Yet indicators of funding stress are still showing pressure.

In an emergency action Sunday, the central bank slashed interest rates to zero, adjusted the parameters of global dollar swap lines, in additional to offering trillions of dollars of liquidity via operations for repurchase agreements. Here’s what some of the key metrics have to say about the level of distress in the financial system:

Despite the Fed action, the repo market remains volatile. At one point during Monday’s trading session, the rate for overnight general collateral was around 2.50%, according to ICAP, which is well above the central bank’s new target range for the fed funds rate of 0% to 0.25%. While the bid-ask spread is now around 2%/1.25%, the central bank said it plans to conduct another overnight repo offering of up to $500 billion.

Cross-Currency Basis Swaps
The Fed on Sunday also lowered the rate on its U.S. dollar liquidity swap lines in coordination with other central banks. As a result, the three-month cross-currency basis for dollar yen -- a proxy for how expensive it is to get the greenback -- briefly spiked to its widest on record Monday in Asian trading before pulling back, according to Bloomberg data since 2011. Strategists at Bank of America believe volatility may persist until the Fed fixes the commercial-paper market and there are “more avenues available to secure USD funding.”

The gap between the London interbank offered rate and overnight index swaps expanded Monday to the widest level since 2009, led by an increase in Libor’s three-month tenor.

Widening: QuickTake
Rates on three-month commercial paper for non-financial companies reached the highest level since the financial crisis relative to OIS. This suggests companies may be having difficulty selling commercial paper, as they tend to do during times of stress. As a result, Wall Street strategists expect the Fed to announce a resurrection of a crisis-era facility for commercial paper.

Eoin Treacy's view

The Fed reactivating swap lines between other central banks, cutting rates to zero, reducing reserve requirements for banks to zero and announcing a $700 billion quantitative easing program all point to a clear effort to ensure the financial system remains liquid as the economy shuts down. Ensuring liquidity is a priority for central banks but it is a factor that sends a signal to stock market investors that there may be something else they need to pay attention.

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