Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Swap Network

What Is a Swap Network?

A swap network is a reciprocal credit line established between two or more central banks. The purpose of a swap network is to allow central banks to exchange currencies with each other in order to maintain a liquid and stable currency market.

Swap networks are also known as "currency swap lines," or as "temporary reciprocal currency arrangements."

Key Takeaways

  • Swap networks are credit and foreign exchange liquidity facilities established between central banks.
  • These swaps lines are an important tool for reducing and managing financial risks because they allow central banks to increase liquidity in both international and domestic banking sectors.
  • During the 2007–2008 financial crisis, the U.S. Federal Reserve established large swap network facilities with other central banks throughout the world.

Understanding Swap Networks

The purpose of a swap network is to maintain liquidity in foreign and domestic currencies so that commercial banks can maintain their mandated reserve requirements. By lending currency between themselves and auctioning off the borrowed funds to private banks, central banks can influence the supply of currencies and thereby help lower the interest rate that banks charge when lending to each other. This interest rate is known as the interbank rate.

Swap networks can play a critical role in maintaining financial-market stability when liquidity is otherwise strained, such as in the midst of a credit crunch. The swap network can help increase banks' access to affordable financing, which in turn can be passed on to businesses throughout the economy in the form of bank loans. For this reason, central banks are sometimes referred to as "the lender of last resort."

In the United States, the Federal Reserve operates swap networks under the authority granted to it by Section 14 of the Federal Reserve Act. In doing so, the Federal Reserve must also comply with the authorizations, policies, and procedures established by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

During the 2007–2008 financial crisis, swap network arrangements were used extensively by central banks throughout the world. At that time, central banks worldwide were desperate to improve liquidity conditions in the foreign exchange market and among domestic banks.

Real-World Example of a Swap Network

In Sept. 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve authorized a $180 billion increase to its swap network, thereby increasing its lines of credit with the central banks of Canada, England, and Japan. Central banks the world over worked closely with each other to help prevent the crisis from spiraling out of control.

Another example took place when the European Central Bank (ECB) agreed in October 2013 to establish a swap network with the People's Bank of China (PBOC). Under this agreement, the ECB extended euros worth about $50 billion to the PBOC, while the PBOC extended the same amount to the ECB in its own currency, the yuan.

While swap networks give central banks the ability to exchange currencies with one-another on demand, this does not mean that they will necessarily do so. Instead, the swap network provides a source of liquidity in the event of an emergency, reducing anxiety among banks and other market participants. In the case of the ECB-PBOC swap network, the arrangement reduces the risk for eurozone banks with an international presence to do business in yuan; and vice versa for Chinese banks doing business in the eurozone. In this manner, the establishment of a swap network is in part a way to instill investor confidence.

Article Sources
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  1. The Federal Reserve. "Central Bank Liquidity Swaps."

  2. Federal Reserve. "Federal Reserve and Other Central Banks Announce Further Measures to Address Elevated Pressures in Funding Markets."

  3. European Central Bank. "ECB and the People’s Bank of China Establish a Bilateral Currency Swap Agreement."

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