布鲁金斯学会:美国金融市场流动性是否面临危机?

美国金融市场对全球经济的运转至关重要,关于其市场流动性是否枯竭的讨论更是重中之重。本文作者认为,目前应该对美国金融市场的流动性状况给予充分关注,并指出政策制定者无意造成适得其反的效果,但是仍有部分分析人士不赞同美国金融市场流动性将爆发灾难性危机的观点。

文/Douglas J. Elliott(布鲁金斯学会研究员)

美国金融市场对我们整个经济的运转至关重要,例如,它能够比银行提供更多的信贷。多年来,巨大的金融市场一直是美国的竞争优势,为投资者匹配有价值的企业和项目提供物有所值的手段。因此,目前关于市场流动性是否枯竭的讨论非常重要,因为证券购买和出售能力对于市场运作具有关键性作用。

简要来说,我认为我们需要重新调整一系列金融法规,因为我们有可能已经损害了潜在的市场流动性,虽然我并不支持这样会导致金融危机的观点。我也并不认为我们需要从根本上全面修订有关规定。我采用了“recalibrate”(重新调整)一词,旨在建议性地提出技术修正,而不是全面抛弃十分明智的改革。这是一个复杂的话题;我即将就市场流动性发表一个较长篇幅的报告,因此在本文中只提供概括性总结。

市场流动性是指证券买家和卖家进行有效交易的能力,通过大额购买和销售进行的速度和交易成本进行评估。这些成本包括佣金或买卖差价以及市场价格波动造成的损失。后者的影响使得市场流动性和价格波动密切相关,因为当市场流动性较差时,交易量会导致价格波动更剧烈。

我们关心市场的流动性,因为它会影响投资者(例如那些存钱养老或读大学的人)的收益以及企业、和其他借款人的成本。此外,流动性较差的市场更为动荡。在极端情况下,市场波动有可能引发或加剧金融危机。即使市场波动位于平均水平,它也能够产生重大的影响,因此它是影响利率的因素。

市场的流动性在某种程度上一个复杂的问题,因为影响流动性的深层原因并不明确。几乎所有人都认为,市场流动性比金融危机发生前更差,但是这究竟是否存在问题目前尚不得而知,因为这些流动性水平是不可持续的。更复杂的部分在于比较流动性和最佳的可持续水平,并对流动性进行预测。目前,就市场流动性的最佳水平或未来走向尚未达成一致意见。

尽管具有不确定性,决策者仍然要认真对待这一问题,并警惕可能产生的风险。我们的法律法规似乎适得其反,将会过度限制市场流动性,使得社会成本比金融稳定性创造的利益更高。需要明确的是,大部分的工作都产生了积极的影响;问题在于重新调整细节,以降低社会成本,同时维持核心利益。

为什么我认为有关规定适得其反?一系列法规的累积效应使得银行和大型证券交易商充当市商更为困难及耗资不菲。(这些规则包括流动性覆盖率、净稳定资金比例和补充杠杆率等等)小型交易商、对冲基金和其他资产管理公司需要收拾残局,但是他们有效完成这项任务的能力有限。市场可以通过转向机构并引进电子市场进行调整,但是这些举措能够发挥的作用同样有限。

从逻辑上讲,最终的结果应该是减少流动性,而且我们已经看到交易商以造市为目的持有的证券库存大幅减少,其他迹象也表明流动性有所降低。在过去的几年中,有四五个事件表明,市场已经显现出极端的波动性,这些事件可能因流动性较差被过分夸大。我们很难知道这些究竟是孤立的事件还是危险的冰山一角。

如果我们必须担心的问题仅仅是我们目所能及的事件,那么我不会如此担忧。我的担忧源于市场流动性可能会在未来变得更糟。

首先,世界各地央行的宽松货币政策似乎已经为市场流动性提供了大力支持,同时抑制了价格波动。最终货币政策收紧时,市场流动性很可能成为问题。其次,在未来的几年内,银行和大型交易商几乎肯定会进一步削减流动性供应,提高价格。许多提高成本的规则正在最后敲定阶段或逐步推进中。

此外,交易商明白,如果采取重大举措,而不是在数年内分散这种痛苦,他们将流失客户。在其他金融圈中,我已经看到此类事件的发生;这些调整随着时间的推移被普遍采用,因此还应该进行更多的调整。

总之,我们有充分的理由对市场流动性表示担忧,并认为,政策制定者无意造成适得其反的效果。然而,我不同意部分分析人士认为会爆发灾难性危机的意见。我认为,适得其反并不意味着我们必须重新进行重大的金融改革。我们需要严肃对待该问题,重新调整一系列技术措施,降低对市场流动性的危害,同时保证金融稳定性。

附英文原文:

US financial markets are critical to the functioning of our entire economy, providing more credit, for example, than banks do. Our unusually large financial markets have been an American competitive advantage for years, providing a cost-effective means of matching investors with worthy companies and projects. Therefore, the current debate about whether market liquidity is drying up is an important one, since the ability to buy and sell securities is central to market functioning.

The short answer is that I believe we need to recalibrate a series of financial regulations, because there is a real risk that we have damaged underlying market liquidity, although I do not subscribe to the doomsday scenarios where this produces a financial crisis. Nor do I think we need to radically overhaul the regulations. I use the term “recalibrate” advisedly, to suggest technical corrections, not a wholesale abandonment of broadly sensible reforms. This is a complex topic; I will soon be issuing a much longer report on market liquidity and will therefore only provide a summary here.

Market liquidity refers to the ability of buyers and sellers of securities to transact efficiently and is measured by the speed with which large purchases and sales can be executed and the transaction costs incurred in doing so. These costs include both the explicit commission or bid/ask spread and the, often larger, loss from moving the market price by the act of making the bid or offer for a large block. This latter effect ties market liquidity to price volatility, as transaction volumes lead to bigger price movements when markets are illiquid.

We care about market liquidity because it affects the returns for investors, such as those saving for retirement or college, and the costs to corporations, governments, and other borrowers. Further, illiquid markets are more volatile. At the extreme, volatility can trigger or exacerbate financial crises. Even the average level of volatility matters, as it is factored into the interest rates demanded by investors and paid by borrowers.

Market liquidity is a complicated issue in part because it is not clear what is happening to underlying liquidity. Pretty much everyone agrees that markets are less liquid than they were in the run-up to the financial crisis, but it is not clear that this is a problem, since those liquidity levels were unsustainable. The harder parts are to compare liquidity to an optimal sustainable level and to project liquidity into the future. There is no agreement on either the optimum level or the future course of market liquidity.

Despite the uncertainties, policymakers are right to take this issue seriously and to worry about the risks. We appear to have overshot in our regulations in a way that will cramp market liquidity excessively, producing more social costs than the benefits of greater financial stability. To be clear, most of what has been done is positive; it is a matter of recalibrating the details to reduce the social costs while keeping the core benefits.

Why do I think it likely that we have overshot? The cumulative effects of a series of regulations have made it substantially more difficult and expensive for banks and large securities dealers to act as market makers. (These rules include the liquidity coverage ratio, the net stable funding ratio, the supplementary leverage ratio, various changes to the capital rules under the Basel capital accords, the Volcker Rule, and others.) Smaller dealers, hedge funds, and other asset managers will pick up some of the slack, but there are real limitations on their ability to do so cost-effectively. The markets can also adapt, such as by moving to agency rather than principal models and by embracing electronic markets, but, again, there are some serious limits on how far these moves can go.

The net result should logically be decreased liquidity and we have already seen much lower securities inventories held for market-making purposes by dealers along with some other signs of lessened liquidity. There have also been four or five incidents in the last couple of years in which markets showed extreme volatility that may have been exaggerated by lower liquidity, such as the “taper tantrum” in the bond markets. It is difficult to know if these are isolated incidents or the tip of a dangerous iceberg.

If all we had to worry about was what we have seen already, then I would not be worried very much. My concerns stem from the probability that market liquidity will get considerably worse going forward. First, the very loose monetary policy of central banks around the world appears to have provided considerable support for market liquidity while also holding down price volatility. When monetary policies eventually tighten, market liquidity is likely to be more of a problem. Second, banks and large dealers are almost certain to cut back further on their liquidity provision and to raise their prices over the next couple of years. Many of the rules that increase their costs are only now being finalized or are being phased in over time. Further, dealers know they will lose customers if they make one big move, rather than spreading the pain over multiple years, especially if their competitors take smaller steps. I have seen it in other financial cycles; these adjustments get spread over time, so there should be more to come.

In sum, there are good reasons to worry about market liquidity and to believe that policymakers have unintentionally overshot. However, I do not subscribe to the disaster scenarios that some suggest, nor do I think the overshooting means that we have to redo financial reform in major ways. This is a matter of taking the issue seriously and recalibrating a series of technical measures to reduce the damage to market liquidity without increasing the risks to financial stability in any significant way.

【智库简介】

布鲁金斯学会(Brookings Institution)

布鲁金斯学会成立于1916年,总部位于华盛顿特区,是美国最具影响力的智库之一,主要研究社会科学尤其是经济与发展、都市政策、外交政策及全球经济发展等议题。在《2014年全球智库年度报告》(The Global Go To Think Tanks 2014)中,布鲁金斯学会在全球(含美国)150大智库中列第1名。网址:http://www.brookings.edu/

*声明:文章为作者独立观点,不代表格隆汇立场

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