Global regulators signal leeway on new bank liquidity rules

Sun Jan 8, 2012 5:30pm EST
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By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - Global regulators vowed on Sunday to press ahead with tough new liquidity rules for banks from 2015, but in a move to head off opposition from industry, also said lenders can tap into safety buffers in times of stress.

The Group of Governors and Heads of Supervision (GHOS), chaired by Bank of England Governor Mervyn King, said the "central principle that a bank is expected to have a stable funding structure and a stock of high-quality liquid assets that should be available to meet its liquidity needs in times of stress.

"Once the Liquidity Coverage Ratio has been implemented, its 100 percent threshold will be a minimum requirement in normal times. But during a period of stress, banks would be expected to use their pool of liquid assets, thereby temporarily falling below the minimum requirement," the GHOS said in a statement following a meeting on Sunday in the Swiss town of Basel.

GHOS, made up of central bankers and top supervisors from nearly 30 countries, oversees the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, which authored the new Basel III bank capital and liquidity accord that will be phased in from 2013 to make banks able to withstand shocks without taxpayer bailouts in the next crisis.

Many banks already meet the tougher Basel III capital requirements, but the liquidity standards are new and lenders argue that building up such buffers by buying government and corporate bonds in times of market stress is expensive and could force them to crimp lending to the economy.

The Basel Committee has been asked to clarify that liquid assets accumulated in normal times are intended to be used in times of stress and provide additional guidance on the circumstances that would justify the use of the liquidity pool, the GHOS statement said.

But the global regulators and central bankers refused industry calls to push back the introduction of an LCR from 2015.

"Members fully supported the (Basel) Committee's proposed focus, course of action and timeline to finalize key aspects of the LCR by addressing specific concerns regarding the pool of high-quality liquid assets as well as some adjustments to the calibration of net cash outflows," GHOS said.   Continued...