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G20 task force to study Libor reform

Mark Carney, Bank of Canada Governor and chairman of the Financial Stability Board speaks during a news conference after a Financial Stabili
Mark Carney, Bank of Canada Governor and chairman of the Financial Stability Board speaks during a news conference after a Financial Stabili

By Emma Thomasson

BASEL, Switzerland (Reuters) - The agency that sets rules for global banks will establish a task force to look at reform of Libor after a scandal in which three banks were fined for rigging the global interest rate benchmark.

The Financial Stability Board, set up by the G20, will report back next year on whether the benchmark should be changed and over what period, its chairman, soon-to-be Bank of England governor Mark Carney said on Tuesday.

It will draw on a report based on new international standards expected next month from the IOSCO group of securities regulators.

"What has to be taken into account is the robustness of the standard," Carney told a news conference after an FSB meeting. "We have to recognize that even some transactions benchmarks could be manipulated, it depends on depth of the market."

Libor, or the London Interbank Offered Rate, is a benchmark for lending rates between banks that is used as the basis for many other rates and to help price products worth over $300 trillion. It is based on quotes from banks.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission wants Libor scrapped and replaced with a reference rate based on actual market transactions.

Martin Wheatley, chief executive of the UK's Financial Conduct Authority who will co-chair the FSB group, says rapid transition to a transaction only rate is not possible.

The FSB steering group, which will also be co-chaired by Jeremy Stein, a governor of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, will consider ease of transition and transition costs.

Carney noted there were considerable efforts already underway to improve Libor. An affiliated market participants group will review options for robust reference rates.

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Speaking more broadly, Carney said some parts of the financial system have not been fully repaired.

Global markets have fallen in recent days after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week the central bank expected to reduce its bond-buying later this year and halt the stimulus program altogether by mid-2014.

"What we have been urging supervisors to do... is managing their risk positions, looking at stress scenarios when there is material increase in volatility ... because eventually across all major jurisdictions the objective is to move away from exceptional emergency accommodation," Carney said.

The FSB, which met on Monday, discussed liquidity developments in all major global markets, including China where there are fears of a credit crunch. China's central bank said on Tuesday it would guide market rates to reasonable levels and manage liquidity in a flexible way.

"I would say the authorities have the situation well in hand," Carney said of China.

The FSB has already required 30 or so of the world's top banks to hold extra capital from 2016 to ensure taxpayers won't have to rescue lenders again in any future crisis.

Carney said the board is now finalizing which insurers will be deemed globally systemic (GSIs) and will name them in July.

Those named will have to hold a capital "supplement" above a certain backstop level, Carney said.

"It is possible that an existing insurer has capital above that supplement level so there is no additional capital requirement for that insurer but that calibration work remains to be done," Carney said.

Global insurance regulators will develop the "straightforward backstop capital requirements" for all insurer activities, including non-insurance subsidiaries, by the G20 summit in 2014.

GSIs will also be more closely supervised and have plans spelling out what happens if they get into trouble.

Carney also set a September deadline - date of the next G20 summit in Russia - for global derivatives regulators to resolve disputes over new cross border rules to make the sector safer.

The FSB also revealed it wants to aggregate data from all the trade repositories that record derivatives transactions to give a full snapshot of positions for all regulators to share.

A feasibility study on how to do this will be published in the first half of 2014.

(Additional reporting and writing by Huw Jones in London, editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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