Bank of Canada Review - Autumn 2012

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This issue features four articles that present research and analysis by Bank staff. The first focuses on financial transaction taxes; the second on the role of central counterparties in over-the-counter markets; and the third on monetary policy and the risk-taking channel, as seen in the lending behaviour of banks. The fourth article presents research findings on the use of retail payment instruments and discusses the implications of innovations in retail payments on the use of cash over the long term.

The Bank of Canada Review is published four times a year. Articles undergo a thorough review process. The views expressed in the articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bank.

The contents of the Review may be reproduced or quoted, provided that the publication, with its date, is specifically cited as the source.

November 15, 2012

Financial Transaction Taxes: International Experiences, Issues and Feasibility

The financial transaction tax (FTT) is a policy idea with a long history that, in the wake of the global financial crisis, has attracted renewed interest in some quarters. This article examines the evidence of the impact of an FTT on market quality and explores a few of the practical issues surrounding the implementation of an FTT. Proponents argue that an FTT will generate substantial tax revenues and reduce market volatility. The majority of the empirical evidence, however, supports the arguments of opponents of the tax who assert that an FTT reduces volume and liquidity and increases volatility. In addition, there are numerous challenges in implementing an FTT, which may reduce the intended revenues. Whether an FTT is beneficial hinges on its effect on market quality and its ability to raise revenues. However, there are many unanswered questions regarding its design.

November 15, 2012

Access, Competition and Risk in Centrally Cleared Markets

Central counterparties can make over-the-counter markets more resilient and reduce systemic risk by mitigating and managing counterparty credit risk. These benefits are maximized when access to central counterparties is available to a wide range of market participants. In an over-the-counter market, there is an important trade-off between risk and competition. A model of an over-the-counter market shows how risk and competition could be influenced by the incentives of market participants as they move to central clearing. In a centrally cleared market, there may be less risk when participation is high. This helps to explain why regulators have put in place requirements for fair, open and risk-based access criteria.

November 15, 2012

Monetary Policy and the Risk-Taking Channel: Insights from the Lending Behaviour of Banks

The financial crisis of 2007-09 and the subsequent extended period of historically low real interest rates have revived the question of whether economic agents are willing to take on more risk when interest rates remain low for a prolonged time period. This increased appetite for risk, which causes economic agents to search for investment assets and strategies that generate higher investment returns, has been called the risk-taking channel of monetary policy. Recent academic research on banks suggests that lending policies in times of low interest rates can be consistent with the existence of a risk-taking channel of monetary policy in Europe, South America, the United States and Canada. Specifically, studies find that the terms of loans to risky borrowers become less stringent in periods of low interest rates. This risk-taking channel may amplify the effects of traditional transmission mechanisms, resulting in the creation of excessive credit.

November 15, 2012

The Changing Landscape for Retail Payments in Canada and the Implications for the Demand for Cash

Over the past 20 years, there has been a major shift away from the use of paper-based retail payment instruments, such as cash and cheques, toward electronic means of payment, such as debit cards and credit cards. Recent Bank of Canada research on consumers’ choice of payment instruments indicates that cash is frequently used for transactions with low values because of its speed, ease of use and wide acceptance, while debit and credit cards are more commonly used for transactions with higher values because of perceived attributes such as safety and record keeping. While innovations in retail payments currently being introduced into the Canadian marketplace could lead to a further reduction in the use of cash over the longer term, the implications for the use of cash of some of the structural and regulatory developments under way are less clear.