Central bank liquidity swap is a type of currency swap used by a country's central bank to provide liquidity of its currency to another country's central bank.
In the United States the Federal Reserve operates swap lines under the authority of Section 14 of the Federal Reserve Act and in compliance with authorizations, policies, and procedures established by the FOMC.
On December 12, 2007, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced that it had authorized temporary reciprocal currency arrangements (central bank liquidity swap lines) with the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank to help provide liquidity in U.S. dollars to overseas markets. Subsequently, the FOMC authorized liquidity swap lines with additional central banks. The swap lines are designed to improve liquidity conditions in U.S. and foreign financial markets by providing foreign central banks with the capacity to deliver U.S. dollar funding to institutions in their jurisdictions during times of market stress.
As of April 2009, swap lines were authorized with the following institutions: the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Banco Central do Brasil, the Bank of Canada, Danmarks Nationalbank, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of Korea, the Banco de Mexico, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Norges Bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Sveriges Riksbank, and the Swiss National Bank. The FOMC authorized these liquidity swap lines through October 30, 2009.
By November 2011, swap agreements were extended until February 2013, at lower interest rates.
These swaps involve two transactions. When a foreign central bank draws on its swap line with the Federal Reserve, the foreign central bank sells a specified amount of its currency to the Federal Reserve in exchange for dollars at the prevailing market exchange rate. The Federal Reserve holds the foreign currency in an account at the foreign central bank. The dollars that the Federal Reserve provides are deposited in an account that the foreign central bank maintains at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. At the same time, the Federal Reserve and the foreign central bank enter into a binding agreement for a second transaction that obligates the foreign central bank to buy back its currency on a specified future date at the same exchange rate. The second transaction unwinds the first. At the conclusion of the second transaction, the foreign central bank pays interest, at a market-based rate, to the Federal Reserve.
When the foreign central bank lends the dollars it obtained by drawing on its swap line to institutions in its jurisdiction, the dollars are transferred from the foreign central bank's account at the Federal Reserve to the account of the bank that the borrowing institution uses to clear its dollar transactions. The foreign central bank remains obligated to return the dollars to the Federal Reserve under the terms of the agreement, and the Federal Reserve is not a counterparty to the loan extended by the foreign central bank. The foreign central bank bears the credit risk associated with the loans it makes to institutions in its jurisdiction.
The foreign currency that the Federal Reserve acquires is an asset on the Federal Reserve's balance sheet. In tables 1, 9, and 10 of the H.4.1 statistical release, the dollar value of amounts that the foreign central banks have drawn but not yet repaid is reported in the line "Central bank liquidity swaps." Because the swap will be unwound at the same exchange rate that was used in the initial draw, the dollar value of the asset is not affected by changes in the market exchange rate. The dollar funds deposited in the accounts that foreign central banks maintain at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York are a Federal Reserve liability. In principle, draws would initially appear in tables 1, 9, and 10 in the line "foreign and official" deposits. However, the foreign central banks generally lend the dollars shortly after drawing on the swap line. At that point, the funds shift to the line "deposits of depository institutions."
When a foreign central bank draws on its swap line to fund its dollar tender operations, it pays interest to the Federal Reserve in an amount equal to the interest the foreign central bank earns on its tender operations. The Federal Reserve holds the foreign currency that it acquires in the swap transaction at the foreign central bank (rather than lending it or investing it in private markets) and does not pay interest. The structure of the arrangement serves to avoid domestic currency reserve management difficulties for foreign central banks that could arise if the Federal Reserve actively invested the foreign currency holdings in the marketplace.
The Federal Reserve Board issues a weekly release that includes information on the aggregate value of swap drawings outstanding. With the onset of the Global financial crisis of 2008–2009 and the collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, the balance grew rapidly. As of April 2009 the balance was $293,533 million. Central bank liquidity swaps have maturities ranging from overnight to three months. Table 2 of the H.4.1 statistical release reports the remaining maturity of outstanding central bank liquidity swaps.