18 Mar 2011
A Market Perspective on the European Sovereign Debt and Banking Crisis
Europe has been beset by an interrelated banking crisis and sovereign debt crisis. Bond spreads faced by Greece and Ireland, and to a lesser extent Portugal followed by Spain, have increased. This paper explores these issues from the perspective of financial markets, focusing mainly on the four countries in the frontline of these pressures: Greece and Portugal, on the one hand, where the problems are primarily fiscal in nature; and Ireland and Spain, on the other, where banking problems related to the property boom and bust have been the key moving part. The paper first examines the probabilities of default implicit in observable market spreads and considers these calculations against sovereign debt dynamics. It then explores the implications of the interaction between bank losses and fiscal deficits on the one hand, and the feedback that any debt haircuts anticipated by markets could have on bank solvency. The study finds that market-implied sovereign default probabilities do in fact discriminate quite clearly between countries based on five criteria that affect the probability of debt restructuring. The discussion highlights some implications for banking system balance sheets of expected losses and shows the potential impact on them of sovereign restructuring implicit in market analysis. While the paper does not make any recommendations for policy action, it does explore a range of policy options and the implications each might have for the financial markets. JEL Classification: G01, G12, G15, G18, G21, H06, H60, H62, H63, H68 Keywords: financial crisis, sovereign risks, public deficits and debt, bond markets, banks.
18 Mar 2011
Risks in Financial Group Structures
This article looks at the types of risks that may be associated with complex financial groups and then sifts through the weight of the evidence in favour of, and against, the various alternatives used to address those risks. The conclusion drawn is that there is no magic bullet among the available policy options that is sufficient on its own to satisfy the three core policy objectives (i.e. safety and soundness, systemic stability, and conduct of business). Rather, this article argues that the greater financial and economic impacts associated with problems at larger institutions requires a holistic approach that combines transparency, governance, regulation and supervision. JEL Classification: G01, G18, G02, G03, G28, G32. Keywords: financial groups, safety and soundness, systemic stability, contagion, governance, supervision and regulation, market discipline.
18 Mar 2011
Challenges and Developments in the Financial Systems of the Southeast Asian Economies
This paper discusses the economies and financial systems of Southeast Asia (SEA) and focuses on challenges and developments in the region. Despite the diversity of SEA economies and some important exceptions, most of them are relatively small but growing strongly. Financial deepening differs among SEA economies. Yet in general, equity markets have grown rapidly and bond markets slowly. The main vulnerabilities of the SEA economies stem from volatile capital flows as well as from decreases in export demand. As a result of national and regional policy responses to the Asian Crisis of 1997/98, the soundness of banking systems has improved, and frameworks to deal with foreign currency liquidity problems and to develop bond markets have been established. Due to these efforts, SEA economies have shown considerable resilience during the current global financial and economic crisis. In some economies, macro-prudential measures may have contributed to this resilience. Capital flows during the current crisis have reminded regional authorities of the risks inherent in these flows. Remaining issues for policy makers to consider are the risks presented by the expanding business activities of banks in the capital and real estate markets, and increasing the participation of SMEs and households in the financial system. JEL Classification: F30, F32, F55, G01, G15, G18, G28, N45 Keywords: Southeast Asia, capital flows, financial crises, financial development, international bond markets
18 Mar 2011
A Public Debt Management Perspective on Proposals for Restrictions on Short Selling of Sovereign Debt
New restrictions on short-selling sovereign debt need to be supported by concrete evidence that links systematically unrestricted short-selling activities to fraud, abuse or market manipulation. OECD debt managers noted that there is plenty of empirical evidence on the benefits of short selling, including more liquidity, pricing efficiency and better allocated risk. However, solid evidence in the form of empirical data on market instability unambiguously caused by unrestricted short-selling activities (to be counted as ‘costs’) seems to be lacking. Debt managers also noted that the reporting requirements will be costly from a purely administrative point of view. A ban on uncovered short selling transactions of sovereign debt would make risk management more difficult and expensive, with detrimental effects on market efficiency, liquidity and funding costs for sovereigns. Moreover, it is unlikely that such bans would have a stabilising effect in government securities markets during a crisis. Rather than containing the crisis, a ban on short selling of government debt is likely to worsen the situation. The paper concludes that OECD debt managers have a range of tested tools at their disposal for dealing with temporary or chronic dysfunctional measures in sovereign debt markets, ranging from ‘quantity measures’, such as openings, to ‘pricing measures’ such as dynamic fails charges. JEL Classification: E44, G01, G21, G28, E61, H21. Keywords: financial regulation, short-selling, restrictions on short-selling, debt management, risk management, sovereign debt.
18 Mar 2011
Assessing the Labour, Financial and Demographic Risks to Retirement Income from Defined-Contribution Pensions
This article examines the impact of labour, financial and demographic risks on retirement income from DC pension plans, with a special emphasis on labour-market risk. It uses a stochastic model that incorporates uncertainty about returns on investment, inflation, discount rates, life expectancy, employment prospects and real wages. The analysis herein highlights that labour-market risk, as well as uncertainty about returns on investment and inflation, have the largest impact on retirement income. The results suggest that default life-cycle investment strategies that reduce exposure to risky assets in the last decade before retirement are quite helpful in reducing the risk of sharp reductions in retirement income, in particular when a negative shock to equity markets occurs in the years before retiring. However, life-cycle strategies fail to address issues of retirement income adequacy or smooth out the volatility in retirement income from DC pension plans.
18 Mar 2011
The Second Corporate Governance Wave in the Middle East and North Africa
Ten years ago, corporate governance was a nascent concept in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This article charts the evolution of corporate governance across the MENA region over the past decade – as a concept and in practice – and proposes potential avenues for future work in this area. Initial interest in corporate governance in the region was propelled by the drive to attract foreign investment and the increasing development of local capital markets. A second wave now appears to be forming and its results will depend largely on the capacity of national regulators to enforce existing corporate governance provisions. JEL Classification: G03, G34 Keywords: corporate governance, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), corporate governance code, security regulators, hawkamah
18 Mar 2011
Sovereign Debt Challenges for Banking Systems and Bond Markets
Discussions at the October 2010 OECD Financial Roundtable conveyed a rather sombre view regarding the current outlook and risks, heightened by financial sector weaknesses, ongoing deleveraging and sovereign debt. Policy makers should be prepared for downside risks to materialise along the way to recovery. Low interest rates and low returns pose specific challenges for institutional investors. While sovereign risk is currently a major concern, its measurement is rather complex and markets do not always provide proper guidance. Sovereign ratings can serve as a useful point of reference but should be made more forward-looking and less procyclical. Should default or debt restructuring become necessary, strong political backing can minimise its costs. The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) was seen as helpful in providing a backstop. Some optimism was expressed as to the current fiscal adjustments underway to bring public finances back onto a sustainable path. Banking sectors remain fragile, especially in Europe, where, however, the transparency provided by recent stress tests has calmed some fears. Reactivating the wholesale markets for bank funding will be essential going forward. Capitalisation of the US banking sector has improved, but pockets of risk remain in exposures to commercial property by regional and small banks. Contingent convertible (bail-in) bonds could become a useful instrument for sharing the costs of crises, but they need to be made attractive for investors. JEL Classification: G01, G12, G15, G18, G21, G32, H06, H60, H62, H63, H68 Keywords: financial crisis, sovereign risks, public deficits and debt, bond markets, banks
18 Mar 2011
Systemic Financial Crises
Systemic financial crises are a recurrent phenomenon, and despite regulatory efforts they are likely to occur again. This report compares the ex ante funding of deposit insurance schemes in a selection of countries, highlighting the "funding gap" left by these arrangements in the recent systemic financial crisis. To fill that gap, different approaches have been adopted across countries in the recent crisis. Where support for the financial sector was provided as part of policy response to the crisis, new taxes have been adopted to generate revenues ex post, although the specific approaches have differed. While there is no single solution in this regard, this report finds that ex ante funded systemic crisis resolution funds, together with strengthened failure resolution powers, are in principle adequate to help fill the gap. JEL Classification: E44, G01, G21, G28, E61, H21. Keywords: systemic financial crisis, systemic crisis resolution fund, deposit insurance, financial activities taxes, ex ante versus ex post funding.
18 Mar 2011
OECD Sovereign Borrowing Outlook No.3
OECD governments are facing ongoing challenges in the markets for government securities as a result of continued strong borrowing amid concerns about the pace of recovery and sovereign risk. The third OECD Sovereign Borrowing Outlook† Raising large volumes of funds at lowest cost, with acceptable roll-over risk, remains a great challenge for several countries, with most OECD debt managers continuing to rebalance the profile of debt portfolios by issuing more long-term instruments and moderating bill issuance. provides revised estimates for 2010 and projections for 2011. Gross borrowing needs of OECD governments are expected to reach almost USD 17.5 trillion in 2010, up from an earlier estimate of almost USD 16 trillion. In 2011, the borrowing needs of OECD sovereigns are projected to reach almost USD 19 trillion, nearly twice that of 2007. Against this backdro,p government debt ratios are expected to further deteriorate. An additional challenge for government issuers is how to deal with the complications generated by the pressures of a rapid increase in sovereign risk, whereby "the market" suddenly perceives the debt of some sovereigns as "risky". JEL Classification: G14, G15, G18, H6, H60, H62, H63, H68 Keywords: sovereign borrowing, public deficits and debt, roll-over risk, sovereign risk.