September 16, 2011 2313 VIEWS


By Thorold BARKER / September 15, 2011




It's the pattern investors have grown used to since the rolling financial crisis began in 2008. The market zeroes in on a point of weakness, policy makers finally apply a band aid, financial apocalypse is averted and the bears retreat before moving on to the next target.


This time the trouble was European banks' access to dollar funding. Most importantly, the duration of available market funding was getting shorter. So the world's leading central banks agreed to extend existing swap lines with the Federal Reserve to allow the banks to access three-month dollar funding, rather than just the seven-day funding available before.


The positive spin: It neutralizes a key investor concern over liquidity. And the move includes a feel-good factor, because central banks are finally seen to be acting in concert after a series of recent unilateral moves by, say, the Swiss to curb their rising currency or the European Central Bank to stem the rise in Italian bond yields.


If this really is the start of greater international cooperation, as some seemed to hope, it is an important development.


But investors risk reading too much into it.


After all, the overall structure of the deal is not new. And it is fairly painless for the Fed. A central bank that does a swap for dollars with the Fed takes the currency risk as well of the credit risk of lending to its own banks.


Thursday's move buys time and soothes funding markets. But European bank credit-default swaps remain way above their 2009 highs. That's a reminder that the real challenge facing the financial system—a solution to the sovereign-debt crisis—remains as elusive as ever.


Write to Thorold Barker at

Source: Story – WSJ / Picture -


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