Oct 3, 2019

Experts warn liquidity crisis could hit U.S. stock market

Photo: Hiroshi Watanabe/Getty Images

The U.S. stock market may be running low on liquidity, experts say, and that could very well weigh down prices and lead to further selling.

Why it matters: The dysfunction over the past few weeks in the repo market, which is where large financial institutions sell assets like Treasuries when they need quick cash, may have been the first signal of a wide-ranging liquidity shortage.

  • That shortage could be poised to deliver a larger shock to the broader financial system, with Wednesday's stock market selloff being the latest (and most prominent) example of a liquidity event.

What they're saying: "Over the past year we have seen liquidity risks bubbling up," Bank of America Merrill Lynch equity and quant strategist Savita Subramanian said in a note to clients.

  • "When the wall of worry turns to panic selling, we worry about an unlikely area of liquidity risk: the S&P 500."

The nagging issues in the repo market are "just a symptom of a larger macro problem," Yves Lamoureux, president of macroeconomic research firm Lamoureux & Co., told Axios.

  • "The economy requires much more credit and the Fed has gone too far in its tightening of the balance sheet."
  • "Liquidity is the blood needed to hold up the stock market. The simple fact that indices are dropping like rocks is a testament to its lack thereof."

Watch this space: The rapidly rising popularity of passive investing, converging stock ownership, and increasing fund flows from pension funds and large money managers into private equity is drying out typical sources of liquidity to the stock market and could mean major outflows in the face of bad news, Subramanian adds.

  • "Liquidity rarely matters, but when it does, it's all that matters."

Go deeper: The ultra-liquid ultra-rich

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Warren says big banks are crying wolf

Photo illustration: Drew Angerer/Getty Staff; Aïda Amer/Axios

The banking industry has argued in recent weeks that the problems in the systemically important repo market are the result of excessive regulations and could result in larger and more damaging liquidity events in the future.

Driving the news: Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday to call foul and request an explanation of what's really going on in the market.

Go deeperArrowOct 23, 2019

Bank heads warn of looming liquidity crisis

Ron O'Hanley, president and chief executive officer of State Street Corp., at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on April 10, 2019 in Washington. Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

A growing number of market analysts are voicing concerns that the repo market shock in September may have been the first signal of a wide-ranging liquidity shortage, and now those warnings are being echoed by the heads of major banks.

The state of play: "Despite the fact that bank balance sheets are quite strong, I think you’ll see more moments like this going forward," Ron O'Hanley, president and CEO of State Street, said during the Institute of International Finance's annual membership meeting on Saturday.

Go deeperArrowOct 21, 2019

Fed's Kashkari is sick of Wall Street's whining

Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari has had it with the "hubris and stupidity" of Wall Street bankers. "Honestly, my patience for these market opinions is basically gone," Kashkari told Axios in an exclusive interview.

Driving the news: His latest grievances are with investors who claim the Fed is being bullied by President Trump and traders pointing fingers at the central bank for the liquidity crunch in the repo market, which the Fed just announced a $60 billion a month standing facility to address.

Go deeperArrowOct 14, 2019