Monday, April 09, 2012

Bernanke: Fostering Financial Stability

by Bill McBride on 4/09/2012 07:40:00 PM

From Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke: Fostering Financial Stability. A few excerpts on shadow banking:

I've outlined a number of ongoing efforts, both domestic and international, to bring the shadow banking system into the sunlight, so to speak, and to impose tougher standards on systemically important financial firms. But even as we make progress on known vulnerabilities, we must be mindful that our financial system is constantly evolving, and that unanticipated risks to stability will develop over time. Indeed, an inevitable side effect of new regulations is that the system will adapt in ways that push risk-taking from more-regulated to less-regulated areas, increasing the need for careful monitoring and supervision of the system as a whole.
Unfortunately, data on the shadow banking sector, by its nature, can be more difficult to obtain. Thus, we have to be more creative to monitor risk in this important area. We look at broad indicators of risk to the financial system, such as measures of risk premiums, asset valuations, and market functioning. We try to gauge the risk of runs by looking at indicators of leverage (both on and off balance sheet) and tracking short-term wholesale funding markets, especially for evidence of maturity mismatches between assets and liabilities. We are also developing new sources of information to improve the monitoring of leverage. For example, in 2010, we began a quarterly survey on dealer financing (the Senior Credit Officer Opinion Survey on Dealer Financing Terms) that collects information on the leverage that dealers provide to financial market participants in the repo and over-the-counter derivatives markets. In addition, we are working with other agencies to create a comprehensive set of regulatory data on hedge funds and private equity firms.
And his conclusion:
In the decades prior to the financial crisis, financial stability policy tended to be overshadowed by monetary policy, which had come to be viewed as the principal function of central banks. In the aftermath of the crisis, however, financial stability policy has taken on greater prominence and is now generally considered to stand on an equal footing with monetary policy as a critical responsibility of central banks. We have spent decades building and refining the infrastructure for conducting monetary policy. And although we have done much in a short time to improve our understanding of systemic risk and to incorporate a macroprudential perspective into supervision, our framework for conducting financial stability policy is not yet at the same level. Continuing to develop an effective set of macroprudential policy indicators and tools, while pursuing essential reforms to the financial system, is critical to preserving financial stability and supporting the U.S. economy.
Before the crisis, oversight and financial stability were not emphasized. Now the regulators are paying attention; hopefully, even after financial conditions finally recovers, regulators will remain vigilant (but I expect they will become complacent again).

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