The decision won't change any of the underlying problems in the European banking sector - many banks still need to be recapitalised, some need to consolidate and deleverage and they all need to fully realise and account for potential losses from the eurozone crisis. That said there are also unlikely to be many negative side effects from this dollar provision, especially since the likes of the ECB were already providing unlimited liquidity anyway.
Below are a few of our thoughts on the issue (specifically in reference to the ECB's role):
- The mechanism is the same as the standard lending practices but in dollars, so the credit risk is the same as normal liquidity provision but with some small additional foreign exchange risk, however this should be priced into the lending rate to banks and (probably) into the collateral requirements.All in all, the introduction of this mechanism doesn't change much, particularly in terms of the risks for the ECB. Any underlying problems can mostly be traced back to issues with the existing unlimited liquidity provision by the ECB, but that is a whole other story...
-It doesn't count as monetisation as it is directly replacing the dollar funding lost from the hesitancy of the money market funds in the US who used to provide these loans to banks. In very recent times the collateral used was widely accepted on the market so there is less to worry about in terms of quality.
- The concerns surrounding the withdrawal of lending to UK and European banks are not directly based on the banks health for the most part, but mostly the lack of eurozone leaders' ability to deal with the crisis and the fall in growth across Europe. Exactly the type of situation where central banks should intervene for liquidity purposes. (There is obviously some concern over these banks' exposure to the debt crisis, but that does not fully account for the complete lack of funding while also does not often directly affect the quality of collateral they can offer for dollar lending).
- It is essentially only an extension of the existing facility. The ECB was already offering unlimited weekly loans, now it has just extended this to 3 months. This offers added security and reduces the cost of continuously rolling over the short term funding.
- If they didn't receive this funding in dollars the banks would probably have borrowed in euros and arranged foreign exchange swaps to gain dollars. Essentially, it looks to us as if the ECB is basically taking on the exchange rate risk for the banks. This is a fairly small price to pay (and may be covered in the lending rates as mentioned above) and is much easier for the central banks to manage, especially with their direct lines with the Fed, than individual banks.
- One issue is that it removes the stigma of borrowing dollars from the ECB's one week funding mechanism. This could have a negative impact to some extent as it increases moral hazard as it may encourage banks to borrow more regularly from the ECB.
- Could become problematic if the ECB has no exit strategy. The lending rate needs to be high enough so that when some semblance of market confidence returns, the banks go back to borrowing from elsewhere and don't stay reliant on the ECB. (This mechanism was used and wound down again in 2008 and early 2010, so there is at least some precedent that it can be used temporarily).
- It is likely that most of the BoE lending will go to UK banks, or the UK arms of global banks, so unlikely that the UK will be directly funding European banks - a concern expressed by some. In any case, its a global coordination and would have been hard for the UK to avoid no matter its position in Europe, its also likely that this role would fall onto central banks when you have a global financial system with numerous heavily used currencies (and one key reserve currency).