Where Has All the Liquidity Gone?
— October 7, 2022
By Viral Acharya and Raghuram G. Rajan
Markets have since calmed down. But as commendable as the BOE’s prompt response has been, we must ask what blame central banks bear for financial markets’ current fragility. After all, while long-term gilt yields have stabilized, gilt market liquidity (judging by bid-ask spreads) has not improved. And across the Atlantic, the market for US Treasuries is also raising liquidity concerns. Many metrics are flashing red, just like at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and in the aftermath of Lehman Brothers’ failure in 2008.
After two years of quantitative easing (QE) – when central banks buy long-term bonds from the private sector and issue liquid reserves in return – central banks around the world have begun to shrink their balance sheets, and liquidity seems to have vanished in the space of just a few months. Why has quantitative tightening (QT) produced that result? In a recent paper co-authored with Rahul Chauhan and Sascha Steffen (which we presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Jackson Hole conference in August), we show that QE may be quite difficult to reverse, because the financial sector has become dependent on easy liquidity.
Read the full Project Syndicate article.
Viral Acharya is the C.V. Starr Professor of Economics