WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve and other major global central banks on Sunday announced that they would work to make sure dollars remain readily available across the global financial system as bank blowups in America and banking issues in Europe create a strain.
The Fed, the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank announced that they would more frequently offer so-called swap operations — which help foreign banks to get weeklong access to U.S. dollar financing — through April. Instead of being weekly, the offerings will for now be daily.
The point of the move is to try to prevent tumultuous conditions in markets as jittery investors react to the blowups of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in the United States and the arranged takeover of Credit Suisse by UBS in Europe. Upheaval in the financial sector can easily turn worse if investors struggle to move around their money — something that often happens because of a shortage of dollar funding in moments of stress. Swap lines can help to release those pressures.
Still, the fact that the central banks are enhancing swap lines underlines how serious the fallout from the bank problems has become: Central banks typically pull out such programs amid acute problems, like in the 2008 financial crisis or the 2020 market meltdown at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The move was “a coordinated action to enhance the provision of liquidity,” according to the statement from the central banks.
The move comes ahead of a big week for the Fed. The U.S. central bank is set to meet and announce its latest interest rate decision on Wednesday.
Up until a few weeks ago, it seemed possible that the Fed could make a large half-point move at this meeting, as it tried to battle surprisingly stubborn inflation in an economy that had proved remarkably resilient.
But with tumult coursing across the global banking system, investors now think that a large move is unlikely: They are betting on a smaller quarter-point move, or no move at all, as officials wait to digest how the financial system is handling the latest developments. Plus, turmoil in banking can lead to less lending, which could itself help to slow down the economy.
The move was part of the Fed’s ongoing push to shore up stability in the global financial system. Just one week ago, the Fed and other regulators announced that Signature Bank had failed and moved to back up uninsured deposits at that firm and Silicon Valley Bank. The Fed also set up an emergency lending program to help banks to weather a tough period.
That program allows banks to use bonds and other assets as collateral to obtain loans, and it values those securities at their original prices, not the prices at which they are currently trading in markets. For banks sitting on assets that are worth less after a year of steep Fed interest rate increases meant to combat rapid inflation, that could serve as a sort of relief valve, allowing them to raise cash without realizing big losses.
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