We argue that post-crisis bank regulation can explain large, persistent deviations from parity on basis trades requiring leverage. Documenting the financing cost and balance sheet impact on a broad array of basis trades for regulated institutions, we show that the implied return on equity on such trades is considerably lower under post-crisis regulation. In addition, although hedge funds would serve as natural alternative arbitrageurs, we document that funds reliant on leverage from a global systemically important bank suffer significant declines in assets and returns relative to unlevered funds. Thus, post-crisis regulation not only affects the targeted banks directly but also spills over to unregulated firms that rely on bank intermediation for their arbitrage strategies.
The report is available at https://www.newyorkfed.org/research/staff_reports/sr858