Guillaume Nolin is a Principal Economist in the Emerging Markets Division of the International Economic Analysis Department. His research interests include financial economics, macroeconomics and econometrics. Specific topics include systematic exchange rate variations, fixed income market liquidity and capital flows. He holds a master’s degree in economics from the Université de Montréal and a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from McGill University. He is also a CFA charterholder.
This paper presents four blue-sky ideas for lowering the cost of the Government of Canada’s debt without increasing the debt’s risk profile. We argue that each idea would improve the secondary-market liquidity of government debt, thereby increasing the demand for government bonds and thus lowering their cost at issuance.
Since 2010, the liquidity of corporate bonds has improved on average, while their trading activity has remained stable. We find that the liquidity and trading activity of riskier bonds or bonds issued by firms in different sectors have been stable. However, the liquidity and trading activity of bonds issued by banks have improved. We observe short-lived episodes of deterioration in liquidity and trading activity.
In recent years, the liquidity in the secondary market for Canadian provincial bonds was a concern for many market participants. We find that a proxy for the bid-ask spread has deteriorated modestly since 2010. However, a proxy for price impact as well as measures of trade size, the number of trades and turnover have been stable or improved since 2010. This holds for bonds issued by different provinces and for bonds of different ages and sizes. Alberta bonds provide an interesting case study: After the fall in oil prices in 2014–15, the province increased its borrowing in the bond market and its credit rating was downgraded. Yet trading activity for Alberta bonds increased significantly. Overall, we interpret the evidence as a sign of resilience in the provincial bond market.
We draw a parallel between the dramatic increases of systematic variations in exchange rates and international bank lending. We find that when a country’s currency has a larger share of systematic variations, lending flows by international banks to that country become more sensitive to global lending - they also become more systematic. This parallel is particularly prevalent for large commodity exporters, including Canada. Global financial intermediation may open a new channel between the real economy and exchange rates.
We use relative value to measure limits to arbitrage in fixed-income markets. Relative value captures apparent deviations from no-arbitrage relationships. It is simple, intuitive and can be computed model-free for any bond.