- Liquidity is drying up
- Volatility is returning
- HFT has dramatically increased crash risk
- The key takeaways for investors
Financial assets are worth what someone will pay for them. A corollary of this is that you’d much rather be trying to buy or sell in markets that are deep and liquid. Thin markets provide bad prices at best, and no bids or offers at worst.
Low trading volumes are worrisome because they are usually accompanied by higher volatility. And those two can easily become dance partners that whirl each other ever faster.
There are numerous warning signs coming from all asset markets, but especially from the bond markets.
The issue of low liquidity really jumped out at me roughly a year ago with the news that the utterly broken Japanese government bond (JGB) market had gone an entire 36 hours without a single trade(!!).
Japan bond market liquidity dries up as BoJ holding crosses ¥200tn
Arp 15, 2015
The Bank of Japan’s massive purchases of government debt hit a milestone this week, sucking liquidity out of the market to such an extent that the benchmark 10-year bond went untraded for more than a day, the first time in 13 years.
The current 10-year cash bonds saw its first trade of the week yesterday afternoon, having gone untraded for more than a day and a half.
Trade volume in the benchmark cash bonds so far this month dropped to less than one trillion yen, down about 70% from the same period last year.
Thus comes the law of unintended consequences. The main reason for buying JGB’s by the Bank of Japan (BoJ) was to inject a lot of liquidity into ‘the system’ in hopes that the Japanese economy would take off.
While that may have happened to some (slight) extent what also happened was that …