Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Thanks for sorting this stuff out. It is more nuanced than I had understood.

Baseline Scenario has a guest post by Jennifer S. Taub, a Lecturer and Coordinator of the Business Law Program within the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts that shows some other interesting aspects of Repo 105. (I haven't copied her links.)

While hiding $50 billion off balance sheet is nothing to sneeze at, `Repo 105' may be an unfortunate distraction. We should focus our attention on a far more mainstream and dangerous use of repurchase agreements backed by securitized bonds to grow balance sheets. This practice, enabled by a 2005 legal change, directly destabilized the financial sector and led to the ultimate credit crisis of 2008. In other words, the approximately $7-10 trillion repo financing market created what Gary Gorton and Andrew Metrick call the "run on repo" or what Gerald Epstein describes as a "run on the banking system by the banking system."


Repos have been called the "oil in the industry of Wall Street" largely because, prior to the global financial crisis, investment banks financed up to 50% of their assets in the repo markets. One bank analyst notes that "repo markets are only one channel linking the "shadow banking" sector to the broader economy." Given its size and importance, the repo market is surprisingly obscure.

At its peak in 2007, the repo market in the US was estimated to be between $7 trillion to $10 trillion. Outstanding US repos today are estimated to be in the $3.8 trillion to $4.27 trillion range. Buyers (cash lenders) in the repo market are typically institutional investors like pension funds and mutual funds who need a liquid but relatively safe place to invest cash for the short term, often overnight. Buyers also include broker-dealers and banks that need securities to cover short positions. Sellers (cash borrowers) in the repo market are often broker-dealers and banks who use these arrangements to finance asset purchases and to leverage. With a matched-book repo, a dealer will act as buyer, bringing in collateral, then will with the same collateral act as a seller with a different counterparty, profiting on the spread.

Gorton observes that "The current panic centered on the repo market, which suffered a run when lenders [whom he likens to depositors during Depression-era banking runs] required increasing haircuts, due to concerns about the value and liquidity of the collateral should the counterparty `bank' fail." These repo lenders also refused to rollover existing repos. Both actions created "massive deleveraging . . . resulting in the banking system being insolvent."

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 12:08:13 PM EST
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