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Central banks act as clearinghouses for payments between regular banks. The fact that each bank has an account and reserves at the central banks allows them to trust each other and credit each other payments even if there's a delay in money actually changing hands.

In the case of cross-border banking you need central banks to clear payments with each other. The ECB might act as a clearinghouse for payments among national central banks. If that is the case and the ECB refused to clear payments with the Italian Central bank, the Italian monetary system might become cut off from the rest of the EU.

At least as I understand the situation.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 07:07:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't the italian central bank act as a clearing house?. I thought any national central bank can have the account number of any bank. So the spanish central bank has the account of the spanish and any foreign bank.. so if any bank wants to put money in an Spanish bank it can go to the spanish central bank...if a spanish bank gives money to a german bank, the spanish central bank can move the money directly to the account.. if te ECB blocks it, it is the foreign bank problem..and it can always request the spanish cnetral bank to increase its acount in the spanish central bank vor create one.. isn't it?

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 07:36:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But if the Italian Central Bank is shunned as a counterparty by the rest of the Eurozone central banks, foreign banks not regulated by the bank of italy may withhold any reserves they hold with the Italian Central Bank. Moreover, they may refuse to extend credit to Italian banks on the argument that their Lender of Last Resort is not creditworthy.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 08:57:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Central Banks are not in fact necessary for this credit/payment clearing function as a 'central counterparty' analagous to an exchange clearing house.

In Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority oversees the centralised clearing system in which all the Hong Kong clearing banks (also note issuers) participate. Because Hong Kong's is a 'real-time' settlement system, there is no need for a central counterparty as a 'risk intermediary' because there is no risk.

I explicitly referred to this some ten years ago when the implications sank in of 'Peer to Peer' connectivity - and a decentralised, dis-intermediated 'Market 3.0' -  in the aftermath of a market-centric Dot Com I set up.

Market 3.0: the final version

In a spot transaction the two functions take place contemporaneously and the exchange of value is conditional: if I don't have the shares, I can't offer them for sale, and if I don't have the money, I can't bid for the shares.

The consequence of this is that for true real-time settlement of a spot transaction, there is no requirement for a risk intermediary such as a central counterparty because there is no risk. Where there is an element of time between the conclusion of the contract and its settlement, then this introduces the requirement for risk management, and the interpolation of a risk intermediary such as a central counterparty or insurer.



"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 09:02:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ChrisCook:
Because Hong Kong's is a 'real-time' settlement system, there is no need for a central counterparty as a 'risk intermediary' because there is no risk.
You still have to deliver banknotes to settle balances occasionally?

There is no way to completely eliminate settlement risk.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 09:08:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
You still have to deliver banknotes to settle balances occasionally?

There is no way to completely eliminate settlement risk.

The clearing banks issue Hong Kong Bank Notes, except for the lowest denomination HK $10 notes which are issued by the HKMA.

These notes get credited to bank accounts when paid in to a branch, thereby generating a (real time) credit in the system. While they are circulating, the issuers benefit from the Seigniorage.

The only settlement risk here is of counterfeit currency notes.

This is slightly different from the situation in Scotland, where Scottish Bank Notes must be matched - during the working week - by funds deposited with the Bank of England. Over the week-end the Scottish banks benefit from the Seigniorage....an interesting hybrid.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 09:38:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems to me that the major function of central banks in foreign transaction clearing is to allow only the net difference to ever have to be transferred. But the sticking point will always be the case of persistent current account deficits with specific countries. So European national central bank to national central bank clearing could work so long as the current account balances remained close to zero or within a range deemed acceptable by the bank carrying the deficit. Such an arrangement would tend to make such deficits either self limiting or at the discretion of the surplus country, as is the case between the USA and China. Such an arrangement might be a little too obvious to suit the desires of Germany, however.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 10:58:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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