Yellen at Jackson Hole: regulatory framework changes should be “modest and preserve” bank and dealer resilience

Fed Chair Janet Yellen delivered a speech, Financial stability a decade after the onset of the crisis, at “Fostering a Dynamic Global Recovery,” a symposium sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Here are some excerpts from that speech.

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The Federal Reserve is committed individually, and in coordination with other US government agencies through forums such as the FSOC and internationally through bodies such as the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and the FSB, to evaluating the effects of financial market regulations and considering appropriate adjustments. Furthermore, the Federal Reserve has independently taken steps to evaluate potential adjustments to its regulatory and supervisory practices. For example, the Federal Reserve initiated a review of its stress tests following the 2015 cycle, and this review suggested changes to reduce the burden on participating institutions, especially smaller institutions, and to better align the supervisory stress tests with regulatory capital requirements. In addition, a broader set of changes to the new financial regulatory framework may deserve consideration. Such changes include adjustments that may simplify regulations applying to small and medium-sized banks and enhance resolution planning.

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I will briefly summarize the current state of play in two areas: the effect of regulation on credit availability and on changes in market liquidity.

The effects of capital regulation on credit availability have been investigated extensively. Some studies suggest that higher capital weighs on banks’ lending, while others suggest that higher capital supports lending. Such conflicting results in academic research are not altogether surprising. It is difficult to identify the effects of regulatory capital requirements on lending because material changes to capital requirements are rare and are often precipitated, as in the recent case, by financial crises that also have large effects on lending.

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Finally, many financial market participants have expressed concerns about the ability to transact in volume at low cost–that is, about market liquidity, particularly in certain fixed income markets such as that for corporate bonds. Market liquidity for corporate bonds remains robust overall, and the healthy condition of the market is apparent in low bid-ask spreads and the large volume of corporate bond issuance in recent years. That said, liquidity conditions are clearly evolving. Large dealers appear to devote less of their balance sheets to holding inventories of securities to facilitate trades and instead increasingly facilitate trades by directly matching buyers and sellers. In addition, algorithmic traders and institutional investors are a larger presence in various markets than previously, and the willingness of these institutions to support liquidity in stressful conditions is uncertain. While no single factor appears to be the predominant cause of the evolution of market liquidity, some regulations may be affecting market liquidity somewhat.

There may be benefits to simplifying aspects of the Volcker rule, which limits proprietary trading by banking firms, and to reviewing the interaction of the enhanced supplementary leverage ratio with risk-based capital requirements. At the same time, the new regulatory framework overall has made dealers more resilient to shocks, and, in the past, distress at dealers following adverse shocks has been an important factor driving market illiquidity. As a result, any adjustments to the regulatory framework should be modest and preserve the increase in resilience at large dealers and banks associated with the reforms put in place in recent years.

Read the full speech

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