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Taper talk hurt U.S. Treasury market liquidity: Fed survey

An eagle tops the U.S. Federal Reserve building's facade in Washington, July 31, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
An eagle tops the U.S. Federal Reserve building's facade in Washington, July 31, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Liquidity in the ultra-deep U.S. Treasury market suffered during the period of high volatility between May and early July, after the U.S. Federal Reserve began talking about scaling back asset purchases, according to a Fed poll released on Thursday.

The Fed's September senior credit officer opinion survey into dealer financing terms found that demand for funding over the three months, on the whole, was unchanged compared to the previous quarter.

But a supplemental question on the impact of the taper talk drew sharp responses from the 22 institutions that took part. Collectively, these firms cover almost all dealer financing of dollar-denominated securities to non-dealers.

"Dealers indicated that liquidity and functioning generally deteriorated across a number of fixed-income markets, including those typically perceived to be the most liquid and deep, such as the markets for U.S. Treasury and agency securities," the Fed survey noted.

Global markets swung wildly after comments by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in May that the U.S. central bank could begin reducing its asset purchases at the next few meetings.

They then fell further after he said in June that tapering could start later this year. U.S. government bond yields spiked by more than 100 basis points during the period.

"Of note, the special questions evoked responses that were stronger in terms of declines in liquidity than the core questions focused on such issues, which covered the entire survey period from June to August," the Fed said.

In addition, nearly one-fourth of dealers reported tightening in non-price terms offered to trading real estate investment trusts, and about 20 percent of respondents witnessed a decline in financial leverage use by hedge funds, the Fed said.

(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Krista Hughes)

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