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Repurchase and reverse
Repurchase agreement (repo or RP) and reverse repurchase agreement refers to a type of transaction in which a money market participant acquires funds which are immediately available by selling securities and simultaneously agreeing to repurchase the same or similar securities after a specified time at a given price, interest at an agreed-upon rate incurred. When viewed from the perspective of the supplier of the securities (the party acquiring funds) such a transaction is called a repo and a reverse repo or matched sale-purchase agreement when viewed from the point of the supplier of funds.
The term to be used whether a repro or reverse agreement, usually depends on which party initiated the transaction, with a few exceptions: RP transactions between a dealer and a retail customer or between a dealer and the Federal Reserve, for example, are generally described from the dealer's perspective. A retail investor's purchase and commitment to resell securities to a dealer is a repo as the dealer has sold the securities under an agreement to repurchase. Similarly, the transaction when the Federal Reserve supplies funds to the market by buying securities from dealers with a commitment to resell, is called a repo. The converse transaction, in which specific securities are sold from the System's portfolio for immediate delivery and simultaneously repurchased for settlement on the desired date, is called a matched sale-purchase agreement (MSP). (When the Fed is involved, the term "reverse repo" generally is not used, although MSPs produce the reverse effect on reserves as RPs.)
Repos (in many respects), are hybrid transactions that combine features of both secured loans and outright purchase and sale transactions but do not fit clearly into any one classification.
Examples of repo features that are characteristic of secure lending arrangements, are:
The above will rarely be found in outright purchase and sale transactions.
By contrast, the repo buyer's right to trade the securities during the term of the agreement, represents a transfer of ownership that normally does not occur in collateralized lending arrangements.
RP agreements usually are arranged with short terms to maturity--overnight or a few days. Longer-term repos are arranged for standard maturities of one to three weeks and one to three, and even six months. Other fixed-term, multi-day contracts are negotiated occasionally and repos also may be arranged on an "open" or continuing basis. Continuing contracts resemble a series of overnight repos; they are renewed each day with the repo rate or the amount of funds invested adjusted to reflect prevailing market conditions. If, for example, the market value of the securities being held as collateral were to fall below an agreed-upon level, the borrower would be asked to return funds or provide additional securities. Continuing contracts usually may be terminated on demand by either party.
RP transactions are usually arranged in large dollar amounts. Overnight contracts and term repos with maturities of a week or less are often arranged in amounts of $25 million or more, and blocks of $10 million are common for longer-maturity term agreements. Although a few repos are negotiated for amounts under $100,000, the smallest customary amount for transactions with securities dealers is $1 million.
The lender or buyer in an RP agreement is entitled to receive compensation for use of the funds provided to its counterparty. In some agreements, this is accomplished by setting the negotiated repurchase price above the initial sale price, with the difference between the two representing the amount of interest owed to the lender. It is more typical, however, for the sale and repurchase prices to be the same, with an agreed-upon rate of interest to be paid separately by the borrower on the settlement date. It should be noted, however, that the provider of funds in a standard repo transaction earns only the agreed-upon rate of return. If a coupon payment is made on the underlying securities during the term of the agreement, it is common practice for the repo borrower to receive the payment.
The interest rate paid on RP funds, the repo rate of return, is negotiated by the repo counterparties and is set independently of the coupon rate or rates on the underlying securities. In addition to factors related to the terms and conditions of individual repo arrangements, repo interest rates are influenced by overall money market conditions, the competitive rates paid for comparable funds in related markets, and the availability of eligible collateral.
Repurchase agreements are close substitutes for federal funds borrowings, so the activities of institutions that have direct access to both markets should keep the rates on RP and federal funds transactions in close relationship to each other. In addition to commercial banks, these institutions are savings and loan associations, mutual savings banks, credit unions, and federally related credit agencies such as the Federal Home Loan Banks. For example, when the demand for reserves is high relative to the existing supply, depository institutions bid more aggressively for federal funds, thereby putting upward pressure on the federal funds rate. As the funds rate rises, some institutions will turn to the RP market to raise funds, which also puts upward pressure on the RP rate. Both rates will continue to rise until the demand and supply for reserves in the banking system are again in balance.
The overnight federal funds rate generally exceeds the overnight RP rate, reflecting the compensation investors require for lending unsecured in the federal funds market rather than investing in a collateralized RP agreement. The spread between the federal funds rate and the RP rate has varied substantially over time, generally widening during periods of rapid increases in the funds rate and narrowing as the funds rate has stabilized or declined, regardless of the overall level of rates. Movements in the spread also tend to reflect changes in the availability of eligible collateral and in the perceived riskiness of RP investments. A decline in the volume of securities held in dealers' inventories, for example, would typically be associated with a widening in the spread, as the reduced demand for RP financing by dealers would tend to exert downward pressure on the RP rate relative to the funds rate. By contrast, the RP rate has tended to rise relative to the federal funds rate when net borrowing in the RP market by dealers has increased sharply. At times, the additional financing burden has contributed to chronically tight and sometimes negative spreads between federal funds and RP rates.1 The spread also has narrowed considerably when the security of the RP agreement itself has been called into question, most often as a result of failures of government securities dealers.
RP rates are quoted on an
investment basis with a bank discount annualization factor.
For example, a $1 million overnight RP investment at a 5.75 percent rate would yield an interest return of $159.72:
$1,000,000 x .0575 x (1/360) = $159.72
During 1991 and 1992, the spread was largely negative, perhaps reflecting the inability or unwillingness of banks to engage in arbitrage transactions to eliminate the differential.
If the funds were invested in a ten-day term agreement at the same rate of 5.75 percent, the investor's interest earnings would look as follows:
As a final example, suppose that the investor had entered into a continuing contract with the borrower at an initial rate of 5.75 percent, but withdrew from the arrangement after a period of five days. Assuming RP rates changed as indicated below, the investor's return over the period would be $802.22
Although most repo transactions involve the exchange of U.S. Treasury and federal agency securities, including mortgage-backed pass-through securities, and other instruments with real or perceived low credit risk, the agreements themselves are not risk-free. RPs, especially longer-term contracts, entail both interest rate risk and credit risk, which must be taken into account when an RP contract is negotiated. Typically, the securities used as collateral are valued at the current market price, plus accrued interest calculated to the maturity date of the agreement when coupon-bearing issues are used, less a margin of overcollateralization or "haircut" for term agreements.
Taking Margin and Marking to Market Normally, the initial RP price is less than the market value of the underlying securities, which reduces the lender's exposure to market risk. Government securities dealers, for example, frequently take such a haircut on reverses arranged with nondealer customers to cover their exposure on the funds transferred.
Inasmuch as the size of the haircut should be adequate to guard against the potential loss from adverse price movements during the repo term, haircuts tend to be larger the greater the price volatility of the underlying securities with respect to a given change in interest rates. Hence, haircuts tend to increase as the term to maturity of the repo securities lengthens, and haircuts for discount bonds typically exceed those of premium bonds. Haircuts also tend to increase with credit risk, so those taken on private money market instruments typically exceed those of comparable maturity Treasury securities.
It is a fairly common practice to have the collateral value of the underlying securities adjusted daily ("marked to market") to reflect changes in market prices and to maintain the agreed-upon margin as both parties in a term repo arrangement are exposed to interest rate risk. If the market value of the repo securities declines appreciably, the borrower may be asked to provide additional collateral. Then again, the lender may be required to return the excess collateral to the borrower, if the market value of the securities rises substantially.
Prior to the failure of Drysdale Government Securities in May 1982, it was common practice in the RP market to ignore the value of accrued interest in pricing RPs using coupon-bearing securities. This practice enabled Drysdale to acquire a substantial amount of "undervalued" securities, despite its limited capital base. Drysdale used the securities it had reversed in to make short sales to a third party for an amount that included the accrued interest. Drysdale was able to raise working capital and to make interest payments to its other repo counterparties, using the surplus cash generated. Until May 17, 1982, the strategy worked adequately when cumulative losses on Drysdale's interest rate bets caused it to be unable to pay the interest on securities it had borrowed.
The abovementioned illustrated the risk to repo borrowers of not including accrued interest in the initial price of the repo security. Later that year, in response to the weaknesses exposed by the Drysdale affair, full accrual pricing, in which accrued interest is included in full in the initial purchase and resale prices, was adopted as standard market practice, largely at the impetus of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The bankruptcy of Lombard-Wall, Inc. in August 1982, the result of the firm's inability to return funds it had obtained in overvalued long-term RPs, generated considerable uncertainty about the legal status of repos and the contractual rights of the counterparties when one of them files for protection under federal bankruptcy laws. Prior to Lombard-Wall's bankruptcy, repo market participants operated under the assumption that the purchaser of repo securities was entitled to liquidate them if the seller was unable to fulfill the terms of the agreement at settlement. The validity of this assumption was tested in the proceedings following Lombard-Wall's bankruptcy filing. All securities that Lombard-Wall had sold under repurchase agreements were initially frozen by Federal Bankrupcy Judge Edwald J. Ryan. After permitting a number of counterparties to sell off their securities, he ruled in September 1982 that the RP agreements Lombard-Wall had negotiated with a particular bank were secured loans and, therefore, subject to the "automatic stay" provisions of the Bankruptcy Code, which block any efforts of a creditor to make collections or to enforce a lien against the property of a bankrupt estate. According to this interpretation, even if the lender had acquired actual title to the securities, the borrower would be deemed under the law to have an equitable interest in the securities. Although this last ruling dealt specifically with only one bank, it was viewed as a precedent.
At the urging of primary government securities dealers and some prompting by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Congress amended Title 11 of the U.S. Code to exempt certain repurchase agreements from the automatic stay provisions of the Bankruptcy Code when it enacted the Bankruptcy Amendments Act of 1984 in June of that year. Coverage is limited to overnight RPs and term agreements up to a year in Treasury and agency securities and selected money market instruments. The question of whether an RP agreement is a secured lending arrangement or a purchase and sale transaction, was not resolved by the legislation, but it enables lenders to liquidate any repo securities in their possession under either interpretation.
The legislation, however, left open the question of the rights of repo counterparties who are not in possession of the repo collateral at the time of a bankruptcy filing. In 1985 this question was raised with the failures of a few unregistered nonprimary government securities dealers, most notably E.S.M. Government Securities, Inc. and Bevill, Bresler, and Schulman Asset Management Corp. Investors dealing with these firms failed to take adequate steps to protect against custodial risk. Failure to establish appropriate safeguards resulted in sizable losses for a number of the repo counterparties of E.S.M. and Bevill, Bresler, and Schulman when the firms filed for bankruptcy in 1985. In some instances, investors reportedly were sold nonexistent securities, while in others, the same securities were "sold" under repo to a number of investors.
The question of whether the repo counterparties had a priority legal interest in the securities under the control of the bankruptcy trustee or whether they were general unsecured creditors of the bankrupt estate was at issue in the bankruptcy proceedings. This depended to a large extent on whether the repos in question were secured loans or purchases and sales. The Bankruptcy Court ruled in October 1986 in reviewing the circumstances of the Bevill, Bresler, and Schulman case, that because the basic custom in the market is to treat repo transactions as consummated sales and contracts to repurchase, the same characterization should be applied in the event of the default and subsequent bankruptcy of one party. Hence, the repo counterparties to Bevill, Bresler, and Schulman were judged to qualify as customers under the Securities Investor Protection Act and thus were entitled to preferred status in distribution of the firm's assets and up to $500,000 in SIPC insurance.
Other important rulings were made by the Court under Article 8 of the Code, including the finding that a broker-dealer has "effective possession" of securities in the possession of its clearing bank that permits it to make deliveries to its customers, but that such possession is limited to only those securities held for the broker-dealer in a segregation account; the clearing bank retains a contractual lien in those securities remaining in the broker-dealer's general clearing account. (The distinction between a segregation account and general account will be explained below.)
The underlying securities are transferred against payment over the Federal Reserve's securities wire ("Fedwire") when an RP is arranged. At maturity, the RP collateral is returned over Fedwire against payment. Direct access to the Federal Reserve's securities and payments transfer systems is restricted, however, to depository institutions and selected special entities, including foreign central banks and federally sponsored agencies that are statutory fiscal principals. Consequently, transfers of repo securities usually are processed by means of Reserve Bank credits and debits to the securities and clearing accounts of depository institutions acting as clearing agents for their customers. Transfers of physical securities also involve clearing agents.
The transaction costs associated with the payment for and delivery of repo securities include some combination of securities clearance fees, wire-transfer charges for securities in book-entry form, custodial fees, and account-maintenance fees. The exact charges can vary considerably from case to case depending on the type of securities involved and the actual method of delivery. Fedwire's charges for securities transfers are slightly higher, for example, for transfers of agency securities than for Treasury securities. The total transaction costs to process transfers of securities from the borrower to the lender are higher the greater the number of intermediate transactions. Although these costs are often inconsequential for longer-maturity transactions in large dollar amounts, they can add significantly to the overall costs of other transactions.
The dealers offer their repo counterparties a number of collateral arrangements that do not involve the actual delivery of collateral to the lender and concomitant transfer over Fedwire in order to avoid some of these costs and to increase the investor's net yield. The rates available to investors in such non-possessory repos are higher than rates offered on standard two-party RPs with collateral delivery. Of course, the risks may be greater as well.
The "duebill" or letter repo is among the least expensive options for holding repo collateral. Under a letter repo, the borrower, typically a securities dealer, merely sends a transaction confirmation to the lender. The lender does not have control of the securities although specific securities might be named as collateral. The lender has to rely for the most part on the integrity and creditworthiness of the dealer for protection. Letter repo arrangements are used most often in overnight arrangements involving small par amounts or in transactions with nonwireable securities. Letter repo arrangements if compared with most other common repo arrangements, give a dealer greater control over the underlying collateral, enabling the dealer to make last-minute substitutions at low cost if specific securities previously designated as collateral are needed to satisfy other commitments.
The "hold-in-custody" repo, a common letter repo arrangement, in which the borrower retains possession of the repo securities but either transfers them internally to a customer account or delivers them to a bulk segregation account or a bulk repo custody account at its clearing bank. The extent to which the investor's interest in the pledged securities is protected depends on the type of custody arrangement. If the borrower acts as both custodian and principal in the transaction, the lender again relies mostly on the borrower's integrity and creditworthiness. Even when a clearing bank is involved, if the securities are held in a bulk segregation account, the bank has no direct obligations to the dealer's individual repo customers; the dealer's customers are identified only in the dealer's own accounting records and not in those of its clearing bank. This contrasts with a bulk repo custody arrangement in which the bank performs some policing functions and also provides some form of direct confirmation to the repo customers.
Lenders can best protect their claim to repo securities in situations involving nondelivery of RP collateral, by using "safekeeping" arrangements involving a clearing bank/custodian acting solely in their behalf or jointly as agent for both repo counterparties. The "tri-party repo" the most popular of these arrangements, whereby a custodian becomes a direct participant in the repo transaction with the borrower and lender. Tri-party agreements usually are arranged between dealers and major customers with the dealer's clearing bank acting as custodian. The clearer/custodian ensures that exchanges of collateral and funds occur simultaneously and that appropriate operational controls are in place to safeguard the investor's interest in the underlying collateral during the term of the contract. When the repo is arranged, the clearing bank protects the investor's interest in the collateral by making an entry in its internal records transferring the securities from the dealer's general account ("box") to a segregation account. When the repo is unwound at maturity, the clearing bank returns the securities to the dealer's general account and wires the loan repayment to the lender. This typically occurs around 9:00 a.m. ET.
The rates available to investors in tri-party repos are lower than those available on nonsegregated RPs without collateral delivery, but higher than the rates offered on standard two-party RPs with delivery. There is a trade-off between risk and return in the RP market: the greater the control the RP investor (lender) has over his collateral, the lower is his return.
A variety of institutional investors, including banks and thrift institutions, nonfinancial corporations, pension funds, mutual funds, and state and local government authorities and other public bodies, derive benefits from RPs and reverse RPs with dealers. RPs enable investors to earn a return above the risk-free rate on Treasury securities without sacrificing liquidity. RPs also offer greater flexibility than other money market instruments because their maturities can be tailored precisely to meet diverse investment needs. In contrast, CDs have minimum maturity at issue of seven days, and commercial paper is seldom written with maturities as short as a day.
Participants subject to "prudent investor" or other types of asset restrictions regard Repos as an attractive investment. Many public bodies, for example, are required by law to invest tax receipts and the proceeds from note and bond sales in Treasury or federal agency issues until the funds are to be disbursed. They regularly invest in repos collateralized by government securities rather than buying the securities outright, and they record the ownership of the securities rather than the repos on their books. The ability to custom-tailor repo maturities and to adjust the amounts invested on a day-to-day basis make repos well suited to the irregular cash flow patterns experienced by these entities. School districts and other local public authorities tend to arrange RP transactions with local banks or smaller dealers. At the state level, larger dealers and money center banks tend to be the usual counterparties.
Money market mutual funds are also major participants in the RP market. Many funds restrict their repo investments to instruments issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government or federal agencies, while others enter into RPs in any securities in which they are authorized to invest directly. As RPs are deemed to be loans under the Investment Company Act of 1940 and carry risks not typically associated with direct security investments, mutual funds often limit their RP investments to RPs with maturities of seven days or less that are arranged with member banks of the Federal Reserve System or dealers on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's list of reporting dealers. Some funds further restrict their agreements to banks above a certain asset size or to institutions whose securities the fund considers eligible to purchase directly.
Dealers have historically tended to be net borrowers in the RP market, especially in overnight transactions. In some instances, however, dealers have been net lenders of RP funds, the result of shorting securities that were obtained under repo.
Major dealers and large money center banks finance the bulk of their holdings of Treasury and agency securities with RP transactions. Most of these transactions are arranged on a short-term basis (overnight or continuing contracts) via direct contact with major customers, for example: banks, public entities, money market mutual funds, pension funds, and other institutional investors. A dealer's financing desk contacts early each morning, major customers to arrange repo financing to replace maEagleTraders.comg RPs and to meet expected additions to the firm's securities inventory. The financing desk also arranges reverse RPs to cover known or planned short sales and to meet specific customer demands. The bulk of these arrangements are negotiated by 10:00 a.m. ET.
If at the end of the day, a dealer is still in need of funds, it may borrow funds from its clearing bank through a box loan. This is a loan collateralized by any securities in the dealer's general account that have not been allocated to other uses. As such loans are expensive, dealers use them only as a last resort. A "position" loan from another bank, is a less expensive option for a dealer faced with unexpected financing needs late in the day. When the agreement is finalized, the lending bank wires the specified funds to the dealer's clearing bank, which, in turn, segregates the required amount of the dealer's securities as collateral for the loan and acts as custodian for the lender. The securities are released to the box at the start of business on the following trading day and the loan is repaid.
Reverse RPs and Matched Book Transactions
Major dealers commonly use reverse RPs to establish or cover short positions and to obtain specific issues for delivery to customers. This practice is similar to securities borrowing arrangements, whereby the dealer obtains securities in exchange for funds, other securities, or a letter of credit. However, reverses are typically cheaper, and provide greater flexibility in the use of collateral, as they can be arranged for fixed maturities while borrowing arrangements usually may be terminated on a day's notice at the option of the securities lender.
A dealer acts, in many instances, as intermediary between ultimate borrowers and suppliers of funds, in the repo market. A dealer acts as principal on each side of such arrangement, not as agent, borrowing funds from one party (against the sale of securities) and relending the funds to another party (against the receipt of securities).3 The combination of RPs and reverses in this fashion is termed a "repo book." A repo book in which an RP and a reverse RP in the same security have equal terms to maturity is referred to as a "matched book." Larger, better dealers generally began making tentative assignments of collateral to newly arranged RPs by midday. This is in anticipation of the actual receipt of incoming securities. This is based on past experience with customer constraints on acceptable collateral. Collateral assignments are subsequently adjusted to cover unanticipated cash trades and to accommodate specific customer needs, including activity of the Domestic Trading Desk of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Dealers engaging in lending arrangements of this sort generally obtain funds in the overnight market from nonfinancial corporate customers, and in turn they lend these funds in the term market to financial institutions.
Capitalized dealers are able to profit through arbitrage in matched transactions between smaller dealers and nondealer customers because they obtained RP funds at favourable rates and because of the differential in the margin taken on the collateral in the two sides of the transaction.
In an effort to increase profits, a dealer may, at times, choose not to match the maturities of the RPs and reverses in its repo book. For example, if short-term interest rates are expected to rise in the very near term, a dealer might arrange an RP with a longer term than the reverse RP in order to lock in prevailing borrowing rates. Conversely, in a declining rate environment, a longer-term reverse might be financed through a number of shorter-term RPs arranged at successively lower rates.
A repo broker may be contacted, if a dealer has exhausted its regular customer base but still is in need of funds or specific collateral. The repo brokers' market is particularly important as a source of specific issues in short supply ("on special"). Most repo brokers maintain lists of a few hundred customers that are regular repo market participants that enable them to satisfy customer requests for funds or collateral. Repo brokers, in contrast to their dealer customers, generally undertake transactions only as agent. Their profits are derived from commissions or spreads on completed transactions. The activities of some brokers are restricted solely to agreements between dealers, while others also facilitate transactions between dealers and investors and between investors.
The terms available for transactions in the brokered repo market are displayed on brokers' pages on electronic data services. These screens provide brokers' customers with bid rates (at which other repo market participants are prepared to reverse in securities (provide funds) for various lengths of time) and offer rates (at which they are willing to sell securities (borrow funds) for various lengths of time). A participant who wishes to do a repo can have a look at his broker's screen to see if there are any bids at the desired maturity for the securities he wishes to sell. If there are none he can have his offer placed on the screen. Similarly, someone who wants to reverse in certain securities can look for offers on the screen and his own bid can be shown on the screen if he sees none.
In addition to its use as a short-term market for investing and lending funds, the repo market is the primary medium through which the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Domestic Trading Desk (the Desk) conducts open market operations on behalf of the Federal Reserve System. The use of RPs by the Federal Reserve'scan be traced to around 1917, when RPs were used to provide temporary funds to member banks. Operations with banks were discontinued a few years later and were not resumed until 1975, when bank dealers were included in the list of eligible counterparties. Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, the Fed continued to conduct RPs with nonbank, dealer counterparties, but the transactions were used infrequently. In the mid-1940s, RP operations ceased entirely when the Federal Open Market Committee terminated the Desk's authority to conduct RPs on behalf of the System. RPs were not used again until mid-1949. System RP transactions were arranged at fixed rates until 1972, when the current system of competitive bidding for RP funds was implemented. In July 1966, the Fed's use of matched sale-purchase agreements to implement monetary policy directives began. Currently, most open market operations by the System involve overnight or over-the-weekend RPs and matched sale-purchase transactions with dealers. The Fed's daily transactions frequently total about $1.5 billion to $6 billion.
If the Manager of the System Open Market Account needs to inject reserves into the banking system in a given period to offset a temporary shortage, the Desk enters into RP agreements with selected primary dealers. The initial purchase of securities by the System adds to the supply of nonborrowed reserves. However, the injection is only temporary. The extra reserves are subsequently drained when the transaction is unwound at maturity. These agreements usually are arranged overnight or for specified periods up to, but less than, 15 days and are collateralized by Treasury and federal agency securities. The option to terminate agreements before maturity are usually given to dealers.
When reserve projections indicate a need to drain reserves on a temporary basis, the Desk arranges matched sale-purchase agreements with primary dealers. The initial sale of securities by the System causes reserves to be drained from the banking system ans the flow of reserves is reversed when the System repurchases the securities. Matched sale-purchase transactions typically are arranged in Treasury bills, using maturities in which the System has substantial holdings.
In addition to the transactions arranged in the market on behalf of the System Account, the System also provides a temporary pooled cash management facility for foreign official and international accounts. Using the funds in this facility, the Desk provides these accounts with temporary investments in Treasury securities by arranging RPs for them in the market or by arranging MSPs internally with the System Account.
Although standard overnight and term RP arrangements in Treasury and federally related agency securities are most prevalent, market participants sometimes alter various contract provisions in order to accommodate specific investment needs. As it takes time to complete the accounting for RP transactions, RPs for the System actually are arranged for the account of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, rather than directly for the System Account, which must be divided each business day among the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks.
For example, some RP contracts, are negotiated to permit substitutions of the securities subject to the repurchase commitment. Dollar repurchase agreements ("dollar rolls"), in which the initial seller's obligation is to repurchase securities that are substantially similar, but not identical, to the securities originally sold, are included in this category. There are two main types. In a "fixed-coupon dollar roll" the seller agrees to repurchase securities that have the same coupon rate as those sold in the first half of the transaction. A "yield maintenance agreement" is a slightly different and less common variant in which the seller agrees to repurchase securities that provide roughly the same overall market return as the original securities. In each case, the maturity of the repurchased securities must be within an agreed-upon range, but need to be only approximately the same as that of the original securities.
Usually dollar rolls are arranged using federally related mortgage-backed securities. Dollar rolls are a low-cost financing vehicle for borrowers, typically savings and loan associations. At the same time, dollar rolls provide the lenders of funds, usually securities dealers, with access to specific mortgage-backed securities, for use in covering short sales or to satisfy other commitments.
Mortgage-backed securities pay interest monthly unlike most coupon-bearing securities, which pay interest semiannually, and there may also be unscheduled principal payments as a result of prepayments. These monthly cash flows must be addressed specifically in the contract terms when the maturity of a dollar roll extends beyond month-end. The counterparties must therefor negotiate which of them is to receive the monthly interest and principal payments. In a standard RP, it is common practice for the borrower to receive all coupon interest and final principal payments. In a dollar roll, however, the reverse tends to be true. Dollar rolls are typically structured so that the lender retains any principal and interest earned on the underlying mortgage-backed securities during the "roll" period. Roll periods generally range from 1 to 11 months, with most contracts written for 1 or 3 months.
Repo arrangements can also be structured to provide flexible terms to maturity. For example, in a "reverse to maturity," the initial seller's repurchase commitment is effectively eliminated altogether because the maturity of the agreement covers the remaining term to maturity of the underlying securities. Reverses to maturity typically involve coupon-bearing securities trading at a discount from their book value, the price at which the "seller" initially purchased them. An outright sale under these circumstances would result in a capital loss, which many institutional investors are reluctant to realize. A reverse to maturity overcomes this difficulty by enabling the seller to give up the overall long position in the securities and acquire funds to invest in higher-yielding assets, without having to actually sell the underwater securities outright. The total dollar amount of the seller's repurchase commitment in the transaction depends on the manner in which the final principal payment on the underlying securities is handled. Usually, the purchaser retains the final payment of interest and principal, this is received directly from the issuer of the securities. This amount is then netted against the seller's repurchase obligation.
Another common used repo arrangement with a flexible term to maturity. A flex repo is a term agreement arranged between a dealer and a major customer, typically a corporation, or a municipality or similar authority. The customer buys securities from the dealer and may sell some back prior to the final maturity date. The funds invested in a flex repo are often intended for use in financing construction or similar projects to be completed in phases. When funds are needed for a given phase of the project, the customer sells the required amount of securities back to the dealer. Under some flex repos, there is a prearranged draw-down schedule, although the investor is not required to adhere to it rigidly. Usually, there are considerable uncertainty regarding the timing of withdrawals. As compensation for accepting the added interest rate risk associated with flex repos, the dealer pays a lower rate than for comparable term agreements. Flex repos usually are collateralized by government-issued or government-backed securities, but dealers are given broad leeway to substitute collateral.
Index repos are term agreements with an underlying interest rate that resets periodically as a function of the federal funds rate, LIBOR, or some other short-term rate. Most indexed repos resemble flex repos in the sense that they are term arrangements that enable the investor to sell securities back to the dealer or buy additional securities as needed. Index repos are used regularly to hedge or finance positions in securities such as floating-rate notes and floating-rate tranches of collateralized mortgage obligations that have rates indexed to the federal funds rate, LIBOR, or other short-term rates. For example, a company that has issued floating-rate debt to finance a pending renovation project can invest the proceeds in an RP agreement tied to the same underlying index. Cchanges in interest rates during the life of the project will produce offsetting changes in the firm's interest rate expense and its interest earnings.
The RP market has become one of the largest and most liquid financial markets in the world, due to the continued growth in the types and volume of arrangements, The exact size of the market in terms of total daily activity is unknown. Available data on the volume of activity consist mainly of reports of the repo activities of banks, thrifts, and primary government securities dealers; (other market participants are not required to file regulatory reports). Although the reported figures provide only an incomplete picture of the absolute size of the RP market, they help to illustrate how rapidly the market has grown in recent years. The average daily activity in repos and reverses by major dealers has more than doubled since the mid-1980s and has increased approximately tenfold since 1981. Favorable financing rates, flexible maturities, and variety of terms and collateral arrangements available have likely led to a similar expansion in the use of repo transactions by other market participants.
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