The Repo Market Incident May Be The Tip Of The Iceberg
The Federal Reserve has injected $278 billion into the securities repurchase market for the first time. Numerous justifications have been provided to explain why this has happened and, more importantly, why it lasted for various days. The first explanation was quite simplistic: an unexpected tax payment. This made no sense. If there is ample liquidity and investors are happy to take financing positions at negative rates all over the world, the abrupt rise in repo rates would simply vanish in a few hours.
Let us start with definitions. The repo market is where borrowers seeking cash offer lenders collateral in the form of safe securities. Repo rates are the interest rate paid to borrow cash in exchange for Treasuries for 24 hours.
Sudden bursts in the repo lending market are not unusual. What is unusual is that it takes days to normalize and even more unusual to see that the Federal Reserve needs to inject hundreds of billions in a few days to offset the unstoppable rise in short-term rates.
Because liquidity is ample, thirst for yield is enormous and financial players are financially more solvent than years ago, right? Wrong.
What the Repo Market Crisis shows us is that liquidity is substantially lower than what the Federal Reserve believes, that fear of contagion and rising risk are evident in the weakest link of the financial repression machine (the overnight market) and, more importantly, that liquidity providers probably have significantly more leverage than many expected.
In summary, the ongoing -and likely to return- burst in the repo market is telling us that risk and debt accumulation are much higher than estimated. Central banks believed they could create a Tsunami of liquidity and manage the waves.
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