Swaps

Turkey’s central bank stepped in again this week to clear confusion over the effects of its unorthodox monetary policy, after the release of data that appeared to contradict comments made by officials. The trouble was caused by balance of payments data: it showed portfolio inflows of $2.3bn in January, higher than a year earlier and at odds with official claims that some $10bn of “hot money” had left the country since December, when the central bank began “quantitative tightening” to deal with macroeconomic imbalances.

Two clarifications from the central bank have cleared up the discrepancy. The balance of payments data showed foreign investors had sold out of Turkish equities since November, while increasing their exposure to debt instruments. But the figures did not include money market transactions, mainly in the form of swap operations. Here, the central bank said, there had indeed been an outflow of $11.5bn since November. 

Merry Christmas, banks. If you start running low on dollars in the new year, your central bank will now be able to access the greenback via currency swaps just extended by the Federal Reserve. For several countries, anyway.

Temporary swap agreements, set up most recently in May with the ECB, BoE, BoJ, SNB and Bank of Canada, were due to expire in January but have now been extended to August 1, 2011. These agreements allow a central bank to receive dollars in return for their own currency, which are then converted back at the same exchange rate at a later day (be it overnight or up to about three months). It’s a liquidity-providing, cash-crunch-prevention measure.

The swap lines are essentially unused at present. Only $60m is outstanding. So why extend? Robin, who’s writing on this for the paper as I type, says the move clearly reflects concerns about Europe. That would explain the curious coincidence of a BoE-ECB swap being set up on Friday (specifically to provide sterling to Ireland). 

The ECB paid euros to receive dollars from the Fed, promising to reverse those transactions in eight days’ time. It is the first usage of the revived, crisis-era, swap facility from the Fed. The idea is to help European banks to access dollar funding more easily through the ECB.

The Bank of England, Bank of Japan, Bank of Canada and Swiss National Bank did not use the facility this week.