Friday, October 27, 2017

IMF, the Basel Committee’s procyclical risk weighted capital requirements puts financial cycles, global or local, on steroids

This year’s IMF Jacques Polak Annual Research Conference on November 2–3 is titled “The Global Financial Cycle.” 

It aims to bring together contributions by leading experts on the topic—from both within and outside the IMF—to improve the “understanding of a range of issues, including the causes and consequences of the global financial cycle, the transmission channels of global financial shocks, and the role of domestic policies in dampening the impact of global shocks.”

I wonder if, again, for the umpteenth time, the distortions produced by risk weighted capital requirements in the allocation of credit to the real economy will be ignored.

The following is the comment I posted on the IMF Blog

Risk weighted capital requirements, more risk more capital – less risk less capital, allows banks to earn much higher risk adjusted returns on equity with what is perceived decreed or concocted as safe, than on what is perceived as risky. 

That pushes more than ordinary the financial pursuit of “the safe” and the avoidance of “the risky”.

That de facto puts financial cycles, whether global or local, on steroids.

PS. I have now read all the papers presented in the conference and the only one that makes somewhat of a reference to risk weighted capital requirements, is “Global financial cycles and risk premiums?” authored by Oscar Jorda, Moritz Schularick, Alan M. Taylor and Felix Ward, October 2017

It includes “If banks hold foreign assets on their balance sheets and mark them to market, price changes can synchronize the risk appetite and the trading behavior of banks around the world. For instance, if Federal Reserve policy affects U.S. equity prices, falling asset prices in the U.S. decrease (risk-weighted)-asset-capital ratios of U.S. as well as international banks, which start to cut down their risk-taking in sync with U.S. banks.

If no large risk-neutral player steps in to compensate for the lower risk taking of the leverage-constrained intermediaries, risk-spreads will increase.”

But as one can see that is how financial cycles or event affect “(risk-weighted)-asset-capital ratios”, but not how these risk weighted capital requirements affect the financial cycles.

For instance Greece would never ever have been able to obtain so much debt had it not been for the ridiculous low capital requirements on that debt.