Interbank Market News Scan: Federal Reserve signals closer eye on hedge fund and prime brokerage ebullience…

FedSpeak: Fed governor Lael Brainard issues statement about resiliency in the financial system …

Statement by Governor Lael Brainard, 6 May 2021

“The latest Financial Stability Report provides valuable analysis to track increases in financial system vulnerabilities. I would highlight a few areas. Vulnerabilities associated with elevated risk appetite are rising. Valuations across a range of asset classes have continued to rise from levels that were already elevated late last year. Equity indices are setting new highs, equity prices relative to forecasts of earnings are near the top of their historical distribution, and the appetite for risk has increased broadly, as the “meme stock” episode demonstrated. Corporate bond markets are also seeing elevated risk appetite, and the spreads of lower quality speculative-grade bonds relative to Treasury yields are among the tightest we have seen historically. The combination of stretched valuations with very high levels of corporate indebtedness bear watching because of the potential to amplify the effects of a re-pricing event.

The FSR describes the failure of Archegos Capital Management and the associated losses at a number of large banks. It highlights the potential for nonbank financial institutions such as hedge funds and other leveraged investors to generate large losses in the financial system. The Archegos event illustrates the limited visibility into hedge fund exposures and serves as a reminder that available measures of hedge fund leverage may not be capturing important risks. The potential for material distress at hedge funds to affect broader financial conditions underscores the importance of more granular, higher-frequency disclosures.

With investors ebullient on expectations for a strong rebound, it is important to closely monitor risks to the system and ensure the financial system is resilient. With valuations and risk appetite at elevated levels, strong microprudential safeguards and macroprudential tools such as the Countercyclical Capital Buffer will be important to address risks to financial stability and enable monetary policy to focus on its maximum employment and average inflation goals.”

Links to follow …

Banks. A choppy day of trading on Wall Street ended Thursday with stocks broadly higher and another all-time high for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. US Stocks Close Higher as Banks, Technology Lead Broad Rally | Business News | US News

Banks, Archegos. The dust hadn’t yet settled on Archegos Capital Management’s implosion, when hedge funds started shifting their bets toward banks that avoided getting hurt, hoping to keep leveraging up just like before. Good luck with that. Archegos Blowup Crimps Hedge Fund Leverage as Banks Cut Risk – Bloomberg

Banks. The European Central Bank will take a closer look at bank loans to lightly regulated investment funds and specialised lenders after the spectacular collapses of Archegos Capital Management and Greensill, top ECB supervisor Andrea Enria told Reuters. ECB to inspect loans to shadow banks after Greensill, Archegos fiascos (msn.com)

Foreign exchange rates of interest

Currency PairsRates as of 10:27 pm EST 6 May 2021Rates as of 8:27 pm EST 5 May 2021 Change in pips
EUR/USD1.20601.2007 +53
GBP/USD1.39041.3904 No change
AUD/USD0.77800.7746 +34
USD/CAD1.21541.2269 -115
USD/JPY109.1100109.2500 -1400
USD/NOK8.30288.3504 -476
USD/CHF0.90770.9127 -50
USD/SEK8.42238.4830 -607
USD/MEX20.086020.2560 -1700
Source: Reuters
Selected Rates 
Fed Funds.05
Bank prime rate3.25
Fed Funds target rate.25
2-yr Treasury.15
10-yr Treasury1.57
30-yr2.24
Source: Bloomberg

Interbank Market News Scan: On the horizon is the opportunity for bank customers to buy and sell crypto through their accounts …

Links to follow ….

Banks. For the first time, customers of some U.S. banks will soon be able to buy, hold and sell bitcoin through their existing accounts, according to crypto custody firm NYDIG. Bitcoin is coming to hundreds of US banks, says crypto firm NYDIG (cnbc.com)

Banks. Archegos Capital Management, the family office run by former Tiger Asia manager Bill Hwang, is preparing for insolvency as banks involved in financing its trades seek to recoup some of their losses, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday. Archegos Prepares for Insolvency as Banks Seek Compensation: Financial Times | Investing News | US News

Cryptocurrency, Dogecoin. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted about Dogecoin again over the weekend, saying the form of cryptocurrency could become a useful currency if things fall the right way. Can Dogecoin become a useful currency? (msn.com)

Federal Reserve System. The Federal Reserve Board on Wednesday invited public comment on proposed guidelines to evaluate requests for accounts and payment services at Federal Reserve Banks (“Account Access Guidelines”). Federal Reserve Board – Federal Reserve Board invites public comment on proposed guidelines to evaluate requests for accounts and payment services at Federal Reserve Banks

Foreign exchange rates of interest ….

Currency PairsRates as of 8:27 pm EST 5 May 2021Rates as of 9:29 pm EST 4 May 2021Change in pips
EUR/USD1.20071.2017-10
GBP/USD1.39041.3891+13
AUD/USD0.77460.7711+35
USD/CAD1.22691.2290-21
USD/JPY109.2500109.3000-500
USD/NOK8.35048.3276+228
USD/CHF0.91270.9133-6
USD/SEK8.48308.4837-7
USD/MEX20.256020.1837+723
Source: Reuters

From the lips of the Federal Reserve …

Federal Reserve Board Governor Michelle Bowman shares her 2021 economic outlook

“I believe that the economy has gained momentum in the past several months and is well positioned to grow strongly in 2021. Nevertheless, we have further to go to recover from the economic damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and risks remain.” — Michelle W. Bowman

“Thank you for this opportunity to address the members of the Colorado Forum, which has been an arena for thoughtful discussion and debate for more than 40 years. Today I would like to discuss a subject that I expect is of great interest to Coloradans and others: the outlook for the U.S. economy in 2021. I believe that the economy has gained momentum in the past several months and is well positioned to grow strongly in 2021. Nevertheless, we have further to go to recover from the economic damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and risks remain.

As we all know, starting in late February or March of last year, widespread economic and social lockdowns and other effects of the pandemic caused the swiftest and deepest contraction in employment and economic activity since the Great Depression. Money markets, the Treasury market, and other parts of the financial system seized up, and there were fears of another severe financial crisis. The Federal Reserve stepped in quickly to assist, reviving several lending facilities used in the previous crisis and creating several new facilities. We also cut short-term interest rates to near zero and began purchasing large quantities of Treasury and agency securities to help sustain the flow of credit to households and businesses. Congress and the Administration also worked together to provide effective and timely support. Calm was restored in financial markets, and employment and output began growing in May, but it was a very deep hole to fill. Since that time, progress in controlling the pandemic has been a dominant force driving the economic recovery. Rapid progress last summer gave way to slower economic growth over the turn of the year, as infection rates once again surged. But after a substantial pickup in vaccinations and steep declines in virus-related hospitalizations and deaths, the economic outlook has brightened. Job creation had stalled over the winter months but improved again starting in February. Over the past year, we’ve seen a return of nearly 14 million jobs.

Another significant factor contributing to the recovery is the resilience of private-sector businesses. Our economic recovery has been more rapid and stronger than many forecasters expected, partly due to the ability of businesses to adapt to conditions that none of them had planned for, and few even imagined could be possible. Initially, government assistance was important, but millions of businesses were at risk of closure. Instead, many are open and growing today due to the resourcefulness and determination of entrepreneurs and workers and their ability to adjust business plans and operations to deal with the effects of social-distancing and operating restrictions. Of course, technology helped a great deal, but businesses were able to find many other ways to maintain operations and sustain their connections to customers. In writing the history of these eventful times, I hope that the efforts of these businesses and the strength of America’s market-based economy get the considerable credit they deserve.

Recently, the incoming data indicate that economic activity is on an upswing, and the risks of more negative outcomes—especially those from COVID-19—appear to be easing. Vaccinations and the easing of operating and social-distancing restrictions are boosting consumer and business confidence, with the results clear to see in the data on spending. Retail sales surged nearly 10 percent in March and are actually above the trendline that was interrupted by the pandemic a year ago. One particularly encouraging signal in that report was a sharp expansion in spending on food services. I hope this is an indication that consumers are finally returning to in-person dining as spring arrives and local authorities allow restaurants to accommodate more diners. If so, and my fingers are crossed, it is a very good sign of further progress in one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.

In the job market, job gains rebounded to 916,000 in March. At our March meeting, my view was broadly in line with the median of projections of other members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which anticipated the economy would grow between 5.8 percent and 6.6 percent in 2021. But the outlook has improved since then, and it now appears that real gross domestic product may increase close to or even above the higher end of that range. This annual increase would be the largest in 36 years.

Likewise, the FOMC median in March was for unemployment to fall to 4.5 percent at the end of 2021, and now it seems possible that it may fall even further. With the economy continuing to reopen, I expect the pace of job creation to remain unusually strong over the spring and summer. Over the past few months many schools have resumed some form of in-person learning, which should translate into a rebound in labor force participation as more parents overseeing virtual education and child care are able to increase hours or return to the workforce.

The biggest risk to the outlook continues to be the course of the pandemic. I see good reasons to be optimistic. Vaccinations are proceeding at a rapid pace, and this progress is supporting decisions by state and local leaders to relax economic restrictions. Most importantly, deaths related to the virus have continued to fall steadily and are at roughly the rate as in early October of last year. I remain hopeful that progress in the economic recovery can stay ahead of new challenges that might emerge, like the spread of new virus variants. That would allow states and localities to continue easing economic and social distancing restrictions and encourage consumers and businesses to return to normal activities. I understand that in Colorado, for example, officials are considering lifting social-distancing restrictions on individuals and businesses. I would be interested to hear from this group about how businesses in Colorado have been faring and whether they have seen an improvement in demand as the pandemic conditions are easing.

While I am optimistic about the ongoing recovery, one lesson of the past year is the significant degree of uncertainty about the course of the virus and its effect on the economy. We experienced periods of considerable progress last year, but we saw some of that progress overtaken by waves of the infection late in the year. Likewise, economic growth rebounded much more quickly than many had expected, but then slowed late in 2020 before regaining speed following the availability of the vaccine. Even with recent encouraging reports on food services, activity in the travel, leisure, and hospitality sectors is still severely compromised, but is showing glimmers of activity. It may be some time before we know whether old habits will resume or new habits have developed that may define a post-pandemic new normal. As I noted in a recent speech, I am particularly concerned about the longer-term effect on small businesses, many of which have held on with government aid and loan forbearance programs that will soon expire.1 It will be several months before we know the final count of permanent small business closures from 2020, but it could be more than we expect.

I will now turn to how the Federal Reserve is proceeding in light of the strong signals of momentum building in the economy. The economic recovery is not yet complete, and the uncertain course of the pandemic still presents risks in the near term, which is why my colleagues and I on the FOMC decided last week to maintain our highly accommodative stance of monetary policy. Despite the progress to date and the signs of acceleration in the recovery, employment is still considerably short of where it was when the pandemic disrupted the economy and it is well below where it should be, considering the pre-pandemic trend. In particular, our maximum employment mandate is intended as a broad and inclusive goal increasing employment and opportunity, but I remain concerned that employment gains for some minority groups have lagged behind those of others. While job creation has been and is expected to remain strong, the pace will eventually slow as the share of those who have been unemployed for the longer-term increases among those who are looking for work. We are making good progress toward our full employment goal, but we still have a long way to go, and risks remain.

This brings me to the other side of our policy mandate. Over the next several months, I expect that headline inflation measures will move above our long-run target of 2 percent. A main reason I expect this outcome is simply the fact that the very low inflation readings during last spring’s deep economic contraction will drop from the usual calculation of 12-month price changes. But in addition, the unusually rapid rebound in economic activity that we’ve seen, along with the pandemic-driven shift towards goods purchases, has led to supply-chain bottlenecks in a number of areas, which in turn have pushed up prices for many goods. One prominent example is with semiconductor producers and their need to dramatically alter the mix of production to meet demands of the high-tech and automotive industries. Although I expect these upward price pressures to ease after the temporary supply bottlenecks are resolved, the exact timing of that dynamic is uncertain. If the supply bottlenecks prove to be more long-lasting than currently expected, I will adjust my views on the inflation outlook accordingly. At this point, the risk that inflation remains persistently above our long-run target of 2 percent still appears small.

In summary, let me say that I am encouraged by the recent pace of the economic recovery, and I remain optimistic that this strength will continue in the coming months. One reason for my optimism is that businesses have been effective in responding to the challenges posed by the pandemic and by economic restrictions implemented in efforts to contain it. We really can’t know how the pandemic will proceed and how that will affect the U.S. economy, but I think we are currently on a good path, and our policy is in a good place. Thank you again for inviting me to speak to you today, and I would be happy to respond to your questions.” — Michelle W. Bowman, 5 May 2021

Source: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Interbank Market News Scan: A vote that can bring the question of Scottish independence a little closer…

Links you should be following today …

Trading desks. A week that could set in motion the eventual collapse of the 314-year union between England and Scotland is concentrating City trading desks on market disasters ahead. ‘Worse Than Brexit’: Scottish Independence Weighs on U.K. Assets – Bloomberg

Banks. Kate Kelly, The New York Times business reporter, joins ‘Squawk on the Street’ to discuss her story on Goldman Sachs’ plan to end remote work for most of its workers and bring them back to the office by mid-to-late June. Goldman Sachs to end remote work for most employees — What that could mean for other banks (msn.com)

Banks. Larger banks ask corporate clients to reduce their cash deposits. Cash-rich US banks move to reduce corporate deposits | Financial Times (ft.com)

Banks. Long ago central banks secured a monopoly over the issuance of paper money. Now physical cash in the form of bank notes and coins is in terminal decline. But the monetary authorities don’t intend to allow cryptocurrencies to fill the void without a fight. Instead, they’re responding with their own version of a so-called “stablecoin”. These central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs, could turn out to be the most revolutionary financial innovation since, well, the inception of paper money. Chancellor: Central bank coin will crush the banks | Nasdaq

Banks. Loan officers at U.S. banks reported easing standards on most business and household loans in the first three months of the year as more of the country reopened amid accelerating vaccination rates. Banks eased standards for business, household loans in first quarter, Fed survey shows (msn.com)

Foreign exchange rates of interest …

Currency PairsRates as of 9:29 pm EST 4 May 2021Rates as of 11:05 pm EST 3 May 2021Change in pips
EUR/USD1.20171.2047-30
GBP/USD1.38911.3879+12
AUD/USD0.77110.7742-31
USD/CAD1.22901.2293-3
USD/JPY109.3000109.1900+1,100
USD/NOK8.32768.2964+312
USD/CHF0.91330.9124+9
USD/SEK8.48378.4250+587
USD/MEX20.183720.2220-383
Source: Reuters

FedWatch: Fed chair Jerome Powell delivers remarks on the Community Reinvestment Act and the importance of community development …

“We see our robust supervisory approach as critical to addressing racial discrimination, which can limit consumers’ ability to improve their economic circumstances, including through access to homeownership and education.” — Jerome Powell

“Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be with you today.

Together, over the past year, we have been making our way through a very difficult time. We are not out of the woods yet, but I am glad to say that we are now making real progress. While some countries are still suffering terribly in the grip of COVID-19, the economic outlook here in the United States has clearly brightened. Vaccination levels are rising. Fiscal and monetary policy are providing strong support. The economy is reopening, bringing stronger economic activity and job creation.

That is the high-level perspective—let’s call it the 30,000 foot view—and from that vantage point, we see improvement. But we should also take a look at what is happening at street level. Lives and livelihoods have been affected in ways that vary from person to person, family to family, and community to community. The economic downturn has not fallen evenly on all Americans, and those least able to bear the burden have been the hardest hit.

The pain is all the greater in light of the gains we had seen in the years prior to the pandemic. COVID swept in as the United States was experiencing the longest expansion on record. Unemployment was at 50-year lows, and inflation remained under control. Wages were moving up, particularly for the lowest-paid workers. Long-standing racial disparities in unemployment were narrowing, and many who had struggled for years were finding jobs. It was not until the later years of that expansion that its benefits had started to reach those on the margins. During our Fed Listens events, we met with people around the country and heard repeatedly about the life-changing gains of the strong labor market, particularly at the lower end of the income spectrum. Just a few months later, those stories changed to ones of job losses, overextended support services, and businesses built over generations closing their doors for good.

While the recovery is gathering strength, it has been slower for those in lower-paid jobs: Almost 20 percent of workers who were in the lowest earnings quartile in February of 2020 were not employed a year later, compared to 6 percent for workers in the highest quartile.1

The Fed’s latest Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking—or SHED report—which will be published later this month, will show that, for prime-age adults without a bachelor’s degree, 20 percent saw layoffs in 2020 versus 12 percent for college-educated workers. And more than 20 percent of Black and Hispanic prime-age workers were laid off compared to 14 percent of white workers over the same period.

Small businesses have also faced immense difficulties. Fed research found that 80 percent of those surveyed reported a decline in revenue, with two-thirds of those businesses experiencing losses of at least 25 percent.2 A recent Federal Reserve special report looked specifically at the impact on businesses owned by people of color, who reported greater challenges. For example, 67 percent of both Asian- and Black-owned firms and 63 percent of Hispanic-owned firms had to reduce their operations compared to 54 percent for their white counterparts.3

Our upcoming SHED report notes that 22 percent of parents were either not working or working less because of disruptions to childcare or in-person schooling. Black and Hispanic mothers—36 percent and 30 percent, respectively—were disproportionately affected. In a similar vein, labor force participation declined around 4 percentage points for Black and Hispanic women compared to 1.6 percentage points for white women and about 2 percentage points for men overall.4 The Fed is focused on these long-standing disparities because they weigh on the productive capacity of our economy. We will only reach our full potential when everyone can contribute to, and share in, the benefits of prosperity.

Achieving broadly shared prosperity will take action from across society, from fiscal and other government policy to private-sector initiatives to the work everyone here does. The Fed can contribute as well. Using our monetary policy tools, the Fed promotes maximum employment and price stability—two foundations of a strong, stable economy that can improve economic outcomes for all Americans. We view maximum employment as a broad and inclusive goal. Those who have historically been left behind stand the best chance of prospering in a strong economy with plentiful job opportunities. Our recent history highlights both the benefits of a strong economy and the severe costs of a weak one.

Supervisory tools also have a role to play. As part of our policy responsibilities, the Board of Governors enforces both the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the federal fair lending laws that prohibit discrimination in lending. Violations of the fair lending laws, along with other illegal credit practices, are taken into account during bank evaluations under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). We see our robust supervisory approach as critical to addressing racial discrimination, which can limit consumers’ ability to improve their economic circumstances, including through access to homeownership and education.

The Fed’s community development function plays a role as well, studying what works, convening stakeholders on both the national and District level, and helping financial institutions find opportunities to invest and expand credit opportunities in low- and moderate-income communities.

The economic landscape has changed, and efforts to provide access and credit to communities must change with it. Last year, the Fed issued a proposal for a strengthened, modernized CRA framework, with the objective of building broad support among both external stakeholders and participating agencies. Our goal is to strengthen the core purpose of meeting the credit needs of low- and moderate-income communities. We especially appreciated NCRC’s feedback on the proposal.

We will continue to do our part, and we appreciate the ways our work and that of NCRC members have intersected. Last April, for instance, the Fed expanded the Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility in order to broaden its reach to include some nondepository lenders. That included CDFI (community development financial institution) loan funds, which many of the people here represent. Your work provided small businesses with invaluable technical assistance to help them weather the downturn, and you have helped them get the funds they need to support their businesses.

NCRC member groups have contributed in so many ways. You helped workers who lost their jobs get retrained. You supported working parents. You helped homeowners struggling with payments and connected renters to federal assistance programs. You brought more people into the banking system, helped strengthen financial literacy and capabilities, and worked to address digital divides in areas of need—particularly in rural communities—at a time when connectivity is essential.

I would like to close by saying thank you. You have been working hard through this crisis, and an enormous amount of work still lies ahead. But what you do is essential. You provide an invaluable service: You make people’s lives better. There is no higher calling.

Thank you.” — Jerome Powell, 3 May 2021

Interbank market news scan: Facebook’s Diem can help the dollar remain the global reserve currency …

Links to follow today ….

Central banks, ECB. Global stocks held steady on Thursday ahead of the European Central Bank’s monetary policy update and despite COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Europe being extended and cases rising globally. Global stocks stabilize ahead of European Central Bank meeting despite steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Asia | Markets Insider (businessinsider.com)

Central banks, Norway. Norway’s central bank will test various technical solutions for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) over the next two years, it said on Thursday. Norway to test solutions for digital central bank currency | Nasdaq

Central banks, Canada. The Federal Reserve and the Bank of Canada will use drastically different playbooks for the remainder of their nations’ respective economic recoveries. The US central bank has indicated it will leave rates near zero for the foreseeable future, and that it isn’t even considering reining in its emergency asset purchases. Canada’s central bank is taking surprising steps to cool the nation’s red-hot virus recovery – and the approach directly conflicts with the Fed’s ultra-easy stance, even with the US further along (msn.com)

Central banks, remittances, Kenya. Remittance inflows into Kenya in March were up 27% year on year to $290.8 million, the central bank said on Wednesday. Kenya’s remittance inflows in March up 27% yr/yr -central bank | Reuters

Central banks, United Kingdom, ECB. Sterling slipped on Thursday, holding below $1.40 before a European Central Bank meeting, as investors weighed up the outlook for an economic recovery from COVID-19 in the UK. Sterling slips versus euro; currency markets quiet ahead of ECB meeting | Nasdaq

Central banks, Facebook, cryptocurrency. Now known as diem, the Facebook-backed digital coin is expected to launch later this year, albeit in a much more limited form. When it finally arrives, diem won’t come with the same fanfare and controversy of the original idea envisioned by the social media giant nearly two years ago. Facebook-backed Diem aims to launch digital currency pilot in 2021 (cnbc.com)

Central banks, ECB, digital currency. Only a few years ago, central bank digital currency (CBDC) was seen as something exotic. Sweden’s Riksbank was alone among high-income countries in exploring it, a fact attributed to its population’s uniquely low use of cash. Now official e-currencies have gone mainstream. www.ft.com

The market opening. The rates to start your day ….

As of 8:10 am EST, Bloomberg reports that the yield on the three-month Treasury note is at 0.01%, down from yesterday’s 0.03% while the two-year note remained at yesterday’s 0.15% rate. The ten-year and thirty-year Treasurys are trading at 1.57% and 2.27%, respectively and relatively unchanged from yesterday.

The Federal Funds rate, the rate at which banks lend to each other overnight in support of their reserve requirements, is at .07%, while the Fed Funds target rate is still at .25%. The prime lending rate is 3.25%. All three rates unchanged from yesterday.

Exchange rates of interest as of 8:45 am EST….

Currency PairsRates as of 8:45 am EST 22 April 2021Rates as of 9:55 am EST 21 April 2021Percentage change in rates
EUR/USD1.17931.2024-1.9%
GBP/USD1.37851.3891-.0076%
USD/CAD1.25721.2629-.0045%
CAD/XCD2.14622.1462unchanged
USD/XCD2.70002.7000unchanged
USD/TTD6.66916.6721-.0004%
USD/BBD2.00002.0000unchanged
CAD/TTD5.30125.3050unchanged
CAD/BBD1.58991.5874unchanged
Source: OANDA

The Opening Takeaway: Could Facebook’s cryptocurrency be the longer term digital play?

Facebook appears to be leveraging the experience it has garnered on America’s Capitol Hill. When the Facebook-backed digital coin Libra found itself targeted by backlash from members of Congress, the company and its stable coin project partners had to go back to the drawing board which included a rebrand of the coin (from Libra to Diem); a little reorganizing of the stable coin project’s membership; and pursuing a payment services license from Switzerland’s financial regulators. See Facebook-backed Diem aims to launch digital currency pilot in 2021 (cnbc.com).

By going the stable coin route, where a cryptocurrency pegs its value to the value of a country’s currency, in this case, the United States, Facebook and its Diem partners, knowingly or not, have made baby steps to pacifying government critics in the US who are concerned about Diem’s threat to the stability of the US political-economic system. This is simply code for “We have to stop Facebook from disrupting our tax and customs regime.” The claims of concern over privacy also seem a bit bogus given that Congress has passed up a number of times over the last decade and a half to promulgate any comprehensive laws that would not only have codified network neutrality but also privacy over America’s digital networks. Besides, as the US slowly gets to testing its own central bank issued digital coin, it too will have to address why taxpayers should be less concerned about government intrusion into privacy as opposed to Facebook.

Facebook is in a position to leverage its network effect generated by over 2 billion daily users and its e-commerce and advertising platform. Its subscribers can enjoy some sort of “dual nation” status where they exchange goods and services on Facebook’s platform using Diem, thus creating a sense of exclusivity. Sort of like an Amazon Prime membership on steroids where only members i.e. Diem-using subscribers, can come and play. And knowing that Diem can be exchanged for US dollars will put Facebook subscribers’ minds at ease. If the Facebook subscriber is not concerned about convertibility, then the US government should have less of a consumer protection argument to throw around.

Another potential benefit may carry over to the Federal Reserve. As it hems and haws over the development of a central bank issued digital currency, it could study the Facebook template, observing in real time how a digital nation-state operates. Also, there is the potential for a test case for conducting digital foreign currency exchange made easier due to Diem being a stable coin.

Lastly, from a foreign policy perspective, the US should look favorably on more of the world’s economies having indirect access to the dollar via Facebook’s stable coin. Using, buying, and selling Diem amounts to using, buying, and selling US dollars. This indirect use of the greenback would keep the dollar out front as the world’s reserve currency.

Alton Drew

Interbank market news scan: Could banks be relegated to money changers and merchant lending?

Links to follow today …

Banks, yields. Shares of banks and other financial institutions ticked down as Treasury yields remained well below recent highs. Financials Down As Treasury Yields Remain Under Pressure – Financials Roundup | Morningstar

Central banks, digital currency. Wall Street is warming up to the idea that the next big disruptive force on the horizon is central bank digital currencies, even though the Federal Reserve likely remains a few years away from developing its own. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/19/central-bank-digital-currency-is-the-next-major-financial-disruptor.html

Central banks, economy. The aggressive rebound in global economic growth still isn’t enough for most of the world’s central banks to pull back on their emergency stimulus. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/robust-rebound-won-t-augur-230100088.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAANIO_W4fWKspPdO0lmCF0BtRtybmUhLQrCrS7IiHsU3ox1D7lAQb3Wr7TRZVJl15aCZ4xuL-XKYMkGxjA9ibNTxZoMNfYd4a7dwMtWJG6VTw9RAdKO8fNl33Lu9oNBs6ZyOcLW0nqTwH9A17TmPzaaGMMUFN9VmVdSnCPC9aRR6X

Central banks, economy, pandemic. With a policy change pretty much off the table this week, European Central Bank watchers will have to closely monitor finer details about its pandemic stimulus program as policymakers wait for more data before taking decisive action. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/21/european-central-bank-meets-as-covid-lockdowns-complicate-recovery.html

The market opening. The rates to start your day ….

As of 9:40 am EST, Bloomberg reports that the yield on the three-month Treasury note is at 0.03% while the two-year note comes in at 0.15%. The ten-year and thirty-year Treasurys are trading at 1.56% and 2.25%, respectively.

The Federal Funds rate, the rate at which banks lend to each other overnight in support of their reserve requirements, is at .07%, while the Fed Funds target rate is still at .25%. The prime lending rate is 3.25%.

Exchange rates of interest as of 9:55 am EST….

Currency PairsRates as of 9:55 am EST 21 April 2021
EUR/USD1.2024
GBP/USD1.3891
USD/CAD1.2629
CAD/XCD2.1462
USD/XCD2.7000
USD/TTD6.6721
USD/BBD2.0000
CAD/TTD5.3012
CAD/BBD1.5986
Source: OANDA

The Opening Takeaway: Could banks become mere currency agents?

Yesterday I shared my expectations on the possibility of the Federal Reserve, the US Treasury, and other central banks and finance ministries prohibiting cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange. Using the policy rationale of the government being the sole issuer of currency, cryptocurrency issuers may find themselves limited to generating digital assets for sale as investments or safe havens. But what about the banks? What would their role be?

Wall Street appears to be hedging its bets on digital currencies (see second link above) as they prepare for the disruption a central bank issued digital currency could cause. Cryptocurrency exchanges such as Coinbase (Nasdaq: COIN) were receiving big boosts from what appears to be growing acceptance of cryptocurrency as at least a digital asset. Uncertainty in the markets drove capital toward bitcoin and other crypto-assets, making crypto the equivalent of gold in some minds. But with the vaccine rollouts and increases in the number of people, at least in western European countries and the United States on the increase, “risk on” seems to be the quiet rally cry accompanying a pullback in crypto prices. Acompanying the pull back are an increasing number of central banks exploring issuing a digital currency.

One arguable benefit from a central bank issued digital currency is the likelihood of turning more consumers into bank deposit holders. Rather than holding a deposit at a commercial bank, the “unbanked” along with those already holding commercial bank accounts, would have a default account at one of the Federal Reserve’s 12 central banks. yes, more account holders but not necessarily account holders at commercial banks. If the efficiencies promised by a central bank issued digital bank come to fruition, then why bother with holding another account? As part of the payment system, the check I write to and deposit into my son’s account goes through the Federal Reserve’s payment system anyway so why include another middle man? Commercial banks will have to consider these scenarios spawned by digital coin efficiencies when contemplating their new roles.

I see the larger banks easily leveraging their scale to ramp up already existing roles. They could focus more on lending, hopefully in a higher yield environment. They could also lobby for relaxation of Dodd-Frank restrictions on proprietary trading, opening up additional income making opportunities to offset income (if any) made currently from depositors. Large banks will not want to waste investments in their infrastructure by being relegated to mere currency issuer status, competing with check cashing facilities located at Walmart or around the corner at a pawnshop.

For the smaller banks, they will want to leverage their community relationships to counter any new found competition from larger banks as they face the irony of central bank issued digital coin taking away their customers.

Alton Drew

Interbank market news scan: The United Kingdom moves closer to adopting a central bank digital currency; other news…

Links you should be following:

Central banks, Bank of England. The UK is ahead of the curve when it comes to digital currency adoption, according to new research. A report by PwC reveals the UK is fifth in the world when it comes to preparing for the adoption of a central digital currency although a consumer offer remains a while off yet. UK leads race across Europe to introduce interbank digital currency (msn.com)

Central banks, Central Bank of Nigeria. It is the norm to hear talks around the need for convergence in Nigeria’s foreign exchange (FX) markets. This implies that there is mispricing. Historically, this mispricing has always been between the parallel market rate, which trades at a premium to the CBN’s managed rates across different FX windows. Liquidity, price discovery in Nigeria’s FX market Opinion — The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News

Central banks, Federal Reserve. Excess cash in the financial system has pressured overnight interest rates, in some instances pushing them negative, which, analysts said, could prompt the Federal Reserve to lift the short-term rates it manages. EXPLAINER-U.S. repo market flirts with negative rates as Fed seeks to absorb excess cash | Nasdaq

Central Banks, Central Bank of the Bahamas. The Bahamas and Cambodia rank as the two top central bank digital currencies. Bahamas Ranks First in CBDCs, China’s Digital Yuan Third: PwC Report – BeInCrypto

Central banks, Central Bank of India. The rupee advanced by 23 paise to 74.64 against the US dollar in opening trade on Tuesday, tracking weaker dollar against key rivals and a positive trend in the domestic equity market. Forex traders said the government’s decision to open COVID vaccination to all above 18 years from May 1 lifted investor sentiment. Rupee Rises 23 Paise to 74.64 Against US Dollar in Early Trade (msn.com)

The market is opening. The rates to start your day:

As of 8:59 am, Bloomberg reports that the three month yield on U.S. Treasurys is at 0.02% while the two-year comes in at .16%. The ten-year Treasurys are trading at 1.60% and 2.30%, respectively.

The Federal Funds rate, the rate at which banks lend to each other overnight in support of their reserve requirements, is at .07%, while the Fed Funds target rate is still at .25%. The prime lending rate is 3.25%.

The Opening Takeaway: I Expect the Federal Reserve, US Treasury to Pull the Trigger on Cryptocurrency.

Yesterday, the markets saw some pull back in shares for Coinbase (Nasdaq:COIN) with the cryptocurrency exchange closing yesterday at $332.75, down from a high of $409.62 back on 14 April. The pull back was reportedly expected among some analysts as some investors took a little cream off the top. From a market perspective, I was not impressed with the offering. In the end, Coinbase is a market exchange platform for cryptocurrency relying on transactional fees for its survival and maintaining credibility among market participants as an information finder and margin provider for traders.

How well Coinbase does is a direct function of how well cryptocurrency does. As long as cryptocurrency stays in its digital asset lane, it may need not worry about too much regulation. Should it dip its toe further into the currency lane, that is where bitcoin, ethereum, dogecoin, etc., may find themselves in a world of hurt.

A currency’s legitimacy comes from the “king.” The king airdrops the currency throughout his jurisdiction for the purpose of washing and compounding it through a jurisdiction’s merchants, producers, and consumers. The currency says a lot about the economic value of the king’s jurisdiction and to maintain the prevailing narrative the currency represents, the king must control or heavily influence its value and circulation. The decentralized financial mechanism that cryptocurrency survives on does not fit into the command and control scheme of the king.

So far the US Federal Reserve has been ambivalent about its view of cryptocurrency. The US Treasury has been a bit clearer about its view of cryptocurrency as a currency based on Janet Yellen’s concerns about cryptocurrency being used for nefarious activities such as money laundering and drug trafficking. Neither the Federal Reserve or the US Treasury has expressed their concerns based on the philosophical underpinnings of currency, but I believe that when it is time for the central bank and the Treasury Department to pull the public policy trigger, control of the currency will be the ultimate public policy rationale.

Countries such as The Bahamas and Cambodia (see the links above) are not waiting. In the interbank, foreign currency exchange world, The Bahamas and Cambodia are near non-existent, but in the digital space they are the leaders in issuing central bank digital currency, taking digital payments to the next level. Over 60 countries are experimenting with or planning deployment of central bank digital currencies where their fiat currencies are tethered to block chain digital technology. Critics argue the point that outside of the digital tethering, a central bank issued digital currency does not increase the value of the fiat currency much. Maybe.

Other than requiring more use out of your cellphone or apps on your desktop, a central bank bank-issued digital coin may seem like mere aesthetics, but what is being ignored is the increased control that the government and central banks can exercise over the currency. Taking it to the extreme, I can see a government requiring that all transactions conducted within its jurisdiction be done via its central bank-issued digital currency with the primary reason being ensuring the collection of taxes on these transactions while better monitoring nefarious activities. I can see such a move beginning in countries that place less emphasis on free markets or individual privacy. The US will hem and haw over such a move especially when it sees China doing it, but if digitisation puts China out further ahead then I can see the United States capitulating to the new digital reality.

As for bitcoin, ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies, they may end up staying in the digital asset space. Their calling card is built on decentralized finance and opaqueness. They won’t become universally used currency for the masses.

Interbank market news scan: Foreign exchange and selected interest rates at 9:03 am EST 1 April 2021

Currency PairsRates as of 9:01am 1 April 2021
EUR/USD1.1745
AUD/USD0.7567
GBP/USD1.3786
USD/JPY110.7500
NZD/USD0.6988
USD/CHF0.9456
USD/NOK8.5446
USD/SEK8.7355
USD/CAD1.2590
  
Selected Rates 
Fed Funds.07
Bank prime rate3.25
Discount window.25
2-yr Treasury.16
10-yr Treasury1.70
30-yr2.36
Sources: Bloomberg, Federal Reserve, Reuters

Interbank market news scan: Foreign exchange and selected interest rates as of 9:18 am EST

Currency PairsRates as of 9:18am 31 March 2021
EUR/USD1.1725
AUD/USD0.7610
GBP/USD1.3769
USD/JPY110.7400
NZD/USD0.6995
USD/CHF0.9429
USD/NOK8.5181
USD/SEK8.7293
USD/CAD1.2607
  
Selected Rates 
Fed Funds.07
Bank prime rate3.25
Discount window.25
2-yr Treasury.14
10-yr Treasury1.73
30-yr2.43
Source: Reuters, Federal Reserve

Interbank market news scan: Foreign exchange rates, Fed Funds rate, and Treasurys as of 9:00 am EST

Currency PairsRates as of 9:00am 30 March 2021
EUR/USD1.1734
AUD/USD0.7615
GBP/USD1.3738
USD/JPY110.3600
NZD/USD0.6986
USD/CHF0.9919
USD/NOK8.5728
USD/SEK8.6901
USD/CAD1.2617
  
Selected Rates 
Fed Funds.07
Bank prime rate3.25
Discount window.25
2-yr Treasury.14
10-yr Treasury1.67
30-yr2.37
Source: Reuters, Federal Reserve

Interbank market news scan: A non-eventful Federal Reserve and no big movements in foreign exchange rates …

The Takeaway …

Federal Reserve Board Governor Christopher Waller reiterated today that the Federal Reserve would not conduct monetary policy for the purpose of keeping interest rates low solely to service debt or maintain asset-based purchase for the purpose of financing the government. The remarks, made at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, also focused on the Federal Reserve’s political independence. While Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act encouraged cooperation between the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve when combating shocks to the U.S. economy, Governor Waller reminded the audience that pursuant to the U.S. Treasury-Federal Reserve Accord of 1951 the Federal Reserve was under no obligation to monetize the U.S. debt at a fixed rate.

Traders should be keeping their eyes open for political tensions that veer the Federal Reserve off course from its statutory mandate of maintaining stable prices and full employment. Governor Waller made it clear that the entire Board was in lock step about debunking the narrative that the Federal reserve was conducting monetary policy solely to service debt. Right now I cannot say whether the Board has been receiving any signals from the Executive Branch to change policy. If there were any tensions, they were not being reflected in today’s foreign exchange rates which appear mostly unchanged.

Currency pair29 March 2021 7:15am29 March 2021 8:48pmPercentage change
EUR/USD1.77001.1768-0.000017
AUD/USD0.76480.7632-0.21
GBP/USD1.38321.3771-0.44
USD/JPY109.5600109.78000.20
NZD/USD0.69970.70050.11
USD/CHF0.93950.9387-0.000085
USD/NOK8.57828.5444-0.004
USD/SEK8.68678.6816-0.000059
USD/CAD1.25921.2588-0.000032
Source: Reuters