Central bank co-operation and international liquidity in the financial crisis of 2008-9

Published as "The international liquidity crisis of 2008-09" (with W Allen), World Economics, vol 12, no 2, 2011, pp 183-98.

BIS Working Papers  |  No 310  | 
02 June 2010


The financial crisis that began in August 2007 has blurred the sharp distinction between monetary and financial stability. It has also led to a revival of practical central bank co-operation. This paper explains how things have changed. The main innovation in central bank cooperation during this crisis was the emergency provision of international liquidity through bilateral central bank swap facilities, which have evolved to form interconnected swap networks. We discuss the reasons for establishing swap facilities, relate the probability of a country receiving a swap line in a currency to a measure of currency-specific liquidity shortages based on the BIS international banking statistics, and find a significant relationship in the case of the US dollar, the euro, the yen and the Swiss franc. We also discuss the role and effectiveness of swap lines in relieving currency-specific liquidity shortages, the risks that central banks run in extending swap lines and the limitations to their utility in relieving liquidity pressures. We conclude that the credit crisis is likely to have a lasting effect on the international liquidity policies of governments and central banks.

JEL Classification: E58, G01, F31

Keywords: Central bank cooperation, central bank swap lines, FX swaps, international liquidity, lender of last resort