Following article is written by Ellen Brown, author, attorney, activist and founder of the Public Banking Institute, for Central Bank News.
Central Bank News will occasionally carry articles by guest contributors if they are of interest to our readers.
When large highly leveraged financial institutions in these markets collapse, e.g., Lehman Brothers in September 2008, central banks are forced to step in to salvage the financial system. Thus, many central banks have little choice but to become securities market makers of last resort, providing safety nets for financialized universal banks and shadow banks.
[C]ontrary to our initial take that banks were pulling from the repo market due to counterparty fears about other banks, they were instead spooked by overexposure by other hedge funds, who have become the dominant marginal – and completely unregulated – repo counterparty to liquidity lending banks; without said liquidity, massive hedge fund regulatory leverage such as that shown above would become effectively impossible.
Repo markets redistribute liquidity between financial institutions: not only banks (as is the case with the federal funds market), but also insurance companies, asset managers, money market funds and other institutional investors. In so doing, they help other financial markets to function smoothly. Thus, any sustained disruption in this market, with daily turnover in the U.S. market of about $1 trillion, could quickly ripple through the financial system. The freezing-up of repo markets in late 2008 was one of the most damaging aspects of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC).
U.S. Treasuries are … the most rehypothecated asset in financial markets, and the big banks know this. … U.S. Treasuries are the core asset used by every financial institution to satisfy its capital and liquidity requirements – which means that no one really knows how big the hole is at a system-wide level.This is the real reason why the repo market periodically seizes up. It’s akin to musical chairs – no one knows how many players will be without a chair until the music stops.
This … explains why the Fed panicked in response to the GC repo rate blowing out to 10% on Sept 16, and instantly implemented repos as well as rushed to launch QE 4: not only was Fed Chair Powell facing an LTCM [Long Term Capital Management] like situation, but because the repo-funded [arbitrage] was (ab)used by most multi-strat funds, the Federal Reserve was suddenly facing a constellation of multiple LTCM blow-ups that could have started an avalanche that would have resulted in trillions of assets being forcefully liquidated as a tsunami of margin calls hit the hedge funds world.
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