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The Fed And The Repo Market

Written by A Forex View From Afar on Monday, June 22, 2009

The Fed is looking to change the way overnight markets works, achieving one of the most important changes in interest rate recent history. The Fed, under Bernanke’s reign, is going throughout some major changes that some say have been needed for a long period of time.

Mr. Bernanke has managed to free the Fed from the view that the market is always right, a view that had a great role in the credit crisis. Other important changes that the Fed went through include now a much more transparent central bank, able to properly anchor market’s expectations, and the Fed’s ability to pay interest on the deposits made.

The Fed is looking at ways to re-organize the repo market, also known as the overnight market, which is the Fed’s most important lever over economic business cycles. Currently, the Fed uses a number of private banks as clearing houses for the repo market, however, this system proved to be obsolete during the credit crisis, TheLFB-Forex.com Trade Team commented.

Throughout the overnight market, the Fed controls the effective federal funds rate and thus the refinancing cost. In this market, banks and other financial institutions access liquidity to meet the daily demands, which include daily customers’ activities (like transfer and withdrawals) and to meet the Fed’s minimum reserve requirements, which is another important lever of the central bank, together with the Fed Funds Rate.

In the repo market, banks that have excessive reserves available compared to their daily needs will lend to banks that require additional capital to meet their daily operations requirements. The average rate at which these operations occur is called the Fed Funds Rate, and is usually very close to the Fed’s targeted rate set by the FOMC.

In order for these operations to happen, a number of clearing banks supervise the market, and set the collateral and the payment requirements. However, this system showed its downside during the credit crisis, especially when Lehman collapsed, as a number of clearing banks (read JP Morgan) raised the collateral demanded on Lehman, further sending the bank into a downspin. Some argue that these actions were the final nails in Lehman’s coffin, and were made deliberately.

Currently, the Fed is trying to change this, by implementing a non-profit organization to handle the overnight market operations. Such a measure is already used in the Euro-area, where the European repo market helped the regional financial system weather the credit crisis.

Such a measure taken by the Fed does not have any direct implications in the forex market, but it will help the U.S. financial system achieve a more stable status, which in the long run might help to make the credit crisis an easier thing to overcome.

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