The 2014 EU-wide bank stress test lacks credibility
Morris Goldstein18 November 2014
Results from last month’s EU-wide stress test are reassuring, especially for countries at Europe’s core. This column warns against a rosy interpretation. The test relies on risk-weighted measures of bank capital ratios that have been shown to be less predictive of bank failure than unweighted leverage ratios – a metric already adopted by the US Fed and Bank of England. In addition, many experts recommend much higher leverage ratios than currently required. The ECB must do more to fix undercapitalisation.
Banks, government bonds, and default: What do the data say?
Nicola Gennaioli, Alberto Martin, Stefano Rossi19 July 2014
There is growing concern – but little systematic evidence – about the relationship between sovereign default and banking crises. This column documents the link between public default, bank bondholdings, and bank loans. Banks hold many public bonds in normal times (on average 9% of their assets), particularly in less financially developed countries. During sovereign defaults, banks increase their exposure to public bonds – especially large banks, and when expected bond returns are high. At the bank level, bondholdings correlate negatively with subsequent lending during sovereign defaults.
Recent events in Europe have illustrated how government defaults can jeopardise domestic bank stability. Growing concerns of public insolvency since 2010 caused great stress in the European banking sector, which was loaded with Euro-area debt (Andritzky 2012). Problems were particularly severe for banks in troubled countries, which entered the crisis holding a sizeable share of their assets in their governments’ bonds – roughly 5% in Portugal and Spain, 7% in Italy, and 16% in Greece (2010 EU Stress Test).
Anil K Kashyap , Dimitri Tsomocos, Alexandros Vardoulakis18 July 2014
Do the extant workhorse models used in policy analysis support macroprudential and macrofinancial policies? This column argues that this is not the case and describes a new macroprudential model that stresses the special role played by banks. The model also accounts for two, often neglected, key principles of the financial systems. Some of the findings of the model could carry over to other, more general settings that satisfy these two principles.
Charles A.E. Goodhart, Dimitri Tsomocos, Udara Peiris, Alexandros Vardoulakis
The IMF staff (Benes et al. 2014) recently unveiled a new model that “has been developed at the IMF to support macrofinancial and macroprudential policy analysis”. In introducing the model they argue that “such new analytical frameworks require a major revamp of the conventional linear dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models”. We agree with Benes et al.
To date, much uncertainty exists about how large the spillovers would be from the default of a systemically important bank. This column shows evidence that the market values of US and EU banks hardly respond to changes in the default risk of banks that the Financial Stability Board considers globally systemically important (G-SIBs). However, changes in all G-SIBs’ default risk explain a substantial part of changes in bank market values. These findings have implications for financial-crisis management and prevention policies.
Financial-crisis management and prevention policies often focus on mitigating spillovers from the default of systemically important banks. During the recent crisis, governments avoided large bank failures by insuring and purchasing intermediaries’ troubled assets, by providing them with capital injections, and even by outright nationalisations. After the crisis, financial regulators designed additional requirements for those institutions that the Financial Stability Board designated as globally systemically important banks (G-SIBs).
Exploring the transmission channels of contagious bank runs
Martin Brown, Stefan Trautmann, Razvan Vlahu10 April 2014
Contagious bank runs are an important source of systemic risk. However, with observational data it is near-impossible to disentangle the contagion of bank runs from other potential causes of correlated deposit withdrawals across banks. This column discusses an experimental investigation of the mechanisms behind contagion. The authors find that panic-based deposit withdrawals can be strongly contagious across banks, but only if depositors know that the banks are economically related.
Financial contagion – the situation in which liquidity or insolvency risk is transmitted from one financial institution to another – is viewed by policymakers and academics as a key source of systemic risk in the banking sector. In particular, the events in the 2007–2009 Global Crisis have turned the attention of policymakers towards the potential contagion of liquidity withdrawals across banks and the resulting implications for financial stability.
Estimating the impact of changes in aggregate bank capital requirements during an upswing
Joseph Noss, Priscilla Toffano06 April 2014
The impact of tighter regulatory capital requirements during an economic upswing is a key question in macroprudential policy. This column discusses research suggesting that an increase of 15 basis points in aggregate capital ratios of banks operating in the UK is associated with a median reduction of around 1.4% in the level of lending after 16 quarters. The impact on quarterly GDP growth is statistically insignificant, a result that is consistent with firms substituting away from bank credit and towards that supplied via bond markets.
The recent financial crisis and economic contraction that followed highlighted the crucial role that banks play in facilitating the extension of credit and enabling economic growth. This underlies the economic rationale for imposing regulations on the banking industry, including minimum capital requirements designed to mitigate risks banks would not otherwise account for in their behaviour.
Charles Calomiris talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his recent book, co-authored with Stephen Haber, ‘Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit’. They discuss how politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation and why banking systems are unstable in some countries but not in others. Calomiris also presents his analysis of the political and banking history of the UK and how the well-being of banking systems depends on complex bargains and coalitions between politicians, bankers and other stakeholders. The interview was recorded in London in February 2014.
Viral Acharya talks to Viv Davies about his recent work with Sascha Steffen that, using publicly available data and a series of shortfall measures, estimates the capital shortfalls of EZ banks that will be stress-tested under the proposed Asset Quality Review. They also discuss the difference in accounting rules between US and EZ banks and the future potential for banking union in the Eurozone. The interview was recorded by phone on 25 February 2014.
A call for liquidity stress testing and why it should not be neglected
Clemens Bonner06 February 2014
Liquidity risks can be a primary source of bank failures. As such, there are arguments not to rely on a single metric for providing supervision. This column describes research on detailed cases of failed and near-failed institutions, which helps highlight gaps in current practices of liquidity stress testing. It also gives guidance on how to design liquidity stress tests. Deposit insurance coverage, the heterogeneity of lending commitments, distinction between different types of repos, committed facilities, and derivative transactions should receive increased attention when designing liquidity stress tests.
Christian Schmieder, Heiko Hesse, Benjamin Neudorfer, Claus Puhr, Stefan W Schmitz
The recent financial crisis has shown that neglecting liquidity risks comes at substantial costs. In order to reinforce banks’ resilience to liquidity risks, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) proposed the introduction of two harmonised liquidity standards:
The liquidity coverage ratio; and
The net stable funding ratio.
While the implementation of harmonised liquidity regulation across the globe is a unique and necessary step for supervision, one single metric cannot provide a complete picture of an institution’s liquidity risk profile.
Falling short of expectations? Stress-testing the European banking system
Viral Acharya, Sascha Steffen17 January 2014
The Single Supervisory Mechanism – a key pillar of the Eurozone banking union – will transfer supervision of Europe’s largest banks to the ECB. Before taking over this role, the ECB will conduct an Asset Quality Review to identify these banks’ capital shortfalls. This column discusses recent estimates of these shortfalls based on publicly available data. Estimates such as these can defend against political efforts to blunt the AQR’s effectiveness. The results suggest that many banks’ capital needs can be met with common equity issuance and bail-ins, but that public backstops might still be necessary in some cases.
The Eurozone is mired in a recession. In 2013, the GDP of the 17 Eurozone countries fell by an average of 0.5%, and the outlook for 2014 shows considerable risks across the region. To stabilise the common currency area and its (partly insolvent) financial system, a Eurozone banking union is being established. An important part of the banking union is the Single Supervisory Mechanism, which will transfer the oversight of Europe’s largest banks to the ECB (Beck 2013).