The Currency Swaps Time Bomb in Global Finance – Rob Johnson



Yves here. While this post gives an introduction to the problem of the magnitude of currency swaps, I suspect readers will find it a bit frustrating because it raises more questions than it answers. I feel I should provide far more than I do in this intro, but it is a big topic to address properly, so I hope to keep chipping away at it over time.

Some initial observations:

First, the size of the dollar-related swaps market belies the idea that the dollar is going to be displaced all that soon.

Second, and not to sound Pollyannish, but there was a lot of currency volatility last year, yet nothing blew up. That may be due to dumb luck. But also recall that the Bank of International Settlements has been a Cassandra. It first flagged rapidly rising housing prices and related increases in lending as a risk…in 2003.

Third, interviewer Paul Jay keeps pushing on the idea that shouldn’t this activity be regulated? Wellie, it never has been and I don’t see how you can put that genie in the bottle. Foreign exchange trading has always been over the counter.

And non-US banks are regulated not by the US but by their home country under what is called the “home host” practice. So it is France’s job to see that French banks fly right, even when they are trading dollars and other non-Eurozone currencies. If a French bank gets in trouble, even on its dollar exposures, it is France that has to bail them out or put it down. That is why, during the financial crisis, when French and even much more so German banks bought a lot of bad US subprime debt and CDOs and then had a lot of losses, they needed dollar funding to cover the holes in their dollar book (as in no one would provide them with short-term dollar funding to keep funding these dollar assets and no one would buy them at any reasonable price if they had tried to sell them). But the ECB could only lend dollars to these Eurobanks, which would not solve this funding problem. So the Fed opened up big currency swap lines with the major central banks. These central banks then swapped to get dollars so they could provide emergency dollar funding to their banks.

Author(s): Yves Smith, Rob Johnson, Paul Jay

Publication Date: 3 Jan 2023

Publication Site: Naked Capitalism,

Cultural stereotypes of multinational banks




Previous studies (e.g. Guiso et al. 2006, 2009) have used aggregate survey data from Eurobarometer to show that the volume of flows between pairs of countries is importantly affected by bilateral trust. A limitation of such country-level evidence is that average levels of trust are almost certainly correlated with unobserved characteristics of country pairs. To rule out confounding factors, we therefore develop a bank-specific measure of trust.

For this purpose, we model banks as hierarchies (as illustrated by Figure 1). Strategic decisions such as whether or not a bank should invest in a country are generally taken at bank headquarters. Portfolio managers working in the headquarters country or elsewhere are then responsible for implementing those decisions. Because we are concerned with investment decisions undertaken by headquarters, we focus our analysis on the extensive margin of sovereign exposures – whether or not a bank invests in the bonds of a country, as opposed to exactly how much it invests.

Given this framework, cultural stereotypes in subsidiaries can shape the soft information that subordinates transmit up the hierarchy to headquarters, where the broad parameters guiding portfolio investment decisions are set. They can affect how that soft information is received by directors, because the latter share the same stereotypes, reflecting the extent to which banks hire and promote internally across borders, such that the composition of bank boards and officers reflects the geography of the bank’s branch network. We provide empirical support for this framework by showing that multinational branch networks help predict the national composition of high-level managerial teams at bank headquarters.

Author(s): Orkun Saka, Barry Eichengreen

Publication Date: 23 Dec 2022

Publication Site: VoxEU

A Nobel Award for the Wrong Model




A more realistic assumption would be that by investing the good at T=0, it cannot be paid out and consumed at T=1. This is only possible at T=2. With this assumption, the model has two different assets:

– a liquid asset, i.e. the all-purpose asset has not been invested in T=0 and it can be consumed at T=1,

– an illiquid asset, i.e. the all-purpose asset been invested in T=0 and can only be consumed at T=2.

Without banks, risk-averse agents would not be able to participate in the returns of the investment good. As they all are confronted with the risk of being type 1, it would be very risky to invest the commodity. In T=1, Type 1 agents would then not be able to consume.

In such a model, banks can provide an obvious improvement if one assumes again that they know the share of type 1 and type 2 agents. In T=0, all agents deposit their endowment of the commodity with the bank. Assuming that the share of type 1 agents is 25 %, the bank keeps 25 % of the all-purpose asset unchanged and invests 75 % as illiquid long-term investment. It thus performs maturity transformation by transforming liquid assets into illiquid assets (Figure 2).

Author(s): Peter Bofinger and Thomas Haas

Publication Date: 18 Oct 2022

Publication Site: Institute for New Economic Thinking