Despite the paramount centrality of repurchase agreements (repos) in today’s market-based finance regime, both conceptual and empirical questions about European repo markets are insufficiently explored as contradictory legal and accounting treatments make their on-balance-sheet representation intricate. Drawing on the literature on monetary hierarchy, we make three connected conceptual arguments: First, we argue that the balance sheet mechanics of repos vary if the counterparties involved are on hierarchically different levels (“vertical repos”) or on the same hierarchical level (“horizontal repos”). While the vertical repo mechanism implies money creation, the horizontal repo mechanism only lends on pre-existing money. Second, we provide a coherent representation of the security posted as repo collateral, which—as to contemporary regulations—does not leave the balance sheet of the repo borrower but changes its status from being held outright to being “encumbered”. Third, we introduce an on-balance-sheet notation of the collateral framework as a means of the repo lender to alter the elasticity of the funding provided. Applying our methodology on two cases—vertical repos created by the Eurosystem for monetary policy implementation and horizontal repos used in the European interbank market—offers an innovative and consistent way to represent changes in the collateral frameworks that affect the elasticity space in the Euro area’s monetary architecture. Our analysis yields two main contributions: We offer an innovative understanding of different mechanisms for repo creation based on monetary hierarchy, and we put forth a data-driven empirical analysis of repos in Europe aimed at supporting our conceptual elaborations.
Alexandru-Stefan Goghie, Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai
Matteo Giordano, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)