Global liquidity - concept, measurement and policy implications

CGFS Publications No 45
November 2011

Abstract

Global liquidity has become a key focus of international policy debates over recent years. This reflects the view that global liquidity and its drivers are of major importance for international financial stability. The concept of global liquidity, however continues to be used in a variety of ways and this ambiguity can lead to unfounded and potentially destabilising policy initiatives.

This report analyses global liquidity from a financial stability perspective, using two distinct liquidity concepts. One is official liquidity, which can be used to settle claims through monetary authorities and is ultimately provided by central banks. The other concept is private (or private sector) liquidity, which is created to a large degree through cross-border operations of banks and other financial institutions.

Understanding the determinants of private liquidity is of particular importance. As many financial institutions provide liquidity both domestically and in other countries, globally, private liquidity is linked to the dynamics of gross international capital flows, including cross-border banking or portfolio movements. This international component of liquidity can be a potential source of instability because of its own dynamics or because it amplifies cyclical movements in domestic financial conditions and intensifies domestic imbalances.

Policy responses to global liquidity call for a consistent framework that considers all phases of global liquidity cycles, countering both surges and shortages. Measures to prevent unsustainable booms in private liquidity are linked with micro- and macroprudential policies as well as the financial reform agenda. Country-specific or regional liquidity shocks, in turn, may effectively be addressed through self-insurance in the form of precautionary foreign exchange reserves holdings and existing arrangements which essentially redistribute liquidity. However, truly global liquidity shocks necessitate direct interventions in amounts large enough to break downward liquidity spirals. Only central banks have this ability.