June 14, 2017
When global financial markets crash, it won’t be just “Trump’s fault” (and perhaps the quants and HFTs who switch from BTFD to STFR ) to keep the heat away from the Fed and central banks for blowing the biggest asset bubble in history: according to the head of the German central bank, Jens Weidmann, another “pre-crash” culprit emerged after he warned that digital currencies such as bitcoin would worsen the next financial crisis.
As the FT reports, speaking in Frankfurt on Wednesday the Bundesbank’s president acknowledged the creation of an official digital currency by a central bank would assure the public that their money was safe. However, he warned that this could come at the expense of private banks’ ability to survive bank runs and financial panics.
As Citigroup’s Hans Lorenzen showed yesterday, as a result of the global liquidity glut, which has pushed conventional assets to all time highs, a tangent has been a scramble for “alternatives” and resulted in the creation and dramatic rise of countless digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. Citi effectively blamed the central banks for the cryptocoin phenomenon.
Weidmann had a different take, and instead he focused on the consequences of this shift towards digitalisation which the Bundesbank president predicted, would be the main challenge faced by central banks. In an ironic twist, in order to challenge the “unofficial” digital currencies that have propagated in recent years, central banks have also been called on to create distinct official digital currencies, and allow citizens to bypass private sector lenders. As Weidmann explained, this will only make the next crisis worse:
Allowing the public to hold claims on the central bank might make their liquid assets safer, because a central bank cannot become insolvent. This is an feature which will become relevant especially in times of crisis – when there will be a strong incentive for money holders to switch bank deposits into the official digital currency simply at the push of a button. But what might be a boon for savers in search of safety might be a bane for banks, as this makes a bank run potentially even easier.
Essentially, Weidmann warned that digital currencies – whose flow can not be blocked by conventional means – make an instant bank run far more likely, and in creating the conditions for a run on bank deposits lenders would be short of liquidity and struggle to make loans.
“My personal take on this is that central banks should strive to make existing payment systems more efficient and still faster than they already are – instant payment is the buzzword here,” the Bundesbank president said. “I am pretty confident that this will reduce most citizens’ interest in digital currencies.”
Which, considering the all time highs in both bitcoin and ethereum, would suggest that citizens faith and confidence in the existing “payment systems”, and thus central banks, is at all time lows.
This article was posted: Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 10:02 am
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