The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has warned that pension funds and other ‘non-bank’ financial firms now have more than $80 trillion of hidden, off-balance sheet dollar debt in the form of FX swaps.
Dubbed the central bank to the world’s central banks, the BIS raised the concerns in its latest quarterly report, in which it also said this year’s market upheaval had, by and large, been navigated without many major issues.
Having repeatedly urged central banks to act forcefully to dampen inflation, it struck a more measured tone this time around and also picked over the ongoing crypto market problems and September’s UK government bond market turmoil.
Its main warning though was what it described as the FX swap debt “blind spot” that risked leaving policymakers in a “fog”.
FX swap markets, where for example a Dutch pension fund or Japanese insurer borrows dollars and lends euro or yen in the “spot leg” before later repaying them, have a history of problems.
They saw funding squeezes during both the global financial crisis and again in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic wrought havoc that required top central banks like the U.S. Federal Reserve to intervene with dollar swap lines.