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CFTC Commissioner J. Christopher Giancarlo Outlines Leading Threats to the Global Economy

CFTC Commissioner J. Christopher Giancarlo

February 18, 2016

Six major threats imperil world financial markets, said U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commissioner J. Christopher Giancarlo during a guest lecture on Feb. 17.

Six years since Dodd-Frank was passed with the aim of preventing the financial crisis of 2008 from recurring, regulators spend much of their time focused on the law’s “peculiar prescriptions,” Giancarlo said in remarks that he noted reflects his own views, not those of the commission to which President Obama appointed him.

Like generals basing strategies on the last war they fought, Giancarlo said, economists are focused on past market abuses, allowing forces that could disrupt global markets to proceed unchecked.

Giancarlo listed the top six threats to global markets as:

  1. Cyberspace is rapidly becoming a new domain in warfare, with the capacity to flood markets with inaccurate data that drives spikes in trade, leaving markets around the world vulnerable.
  2. Technology’s role in financial markets is expanding by means such as automated trading, which increases market access, but creates enormous implications for the transfer of risk.The use of authentication protocols like block chain technology by decentralized third parties has created an “Internet of finance” that poses significant challenges for banking.
  3. The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, which has quintupled in size since the 2008 crisis, has become an outsized and overreaching player that is adversely affecting equities and corporate bonds, driving market participants to adjust practices in favor of anticipated Fed policy.
  4. Liquidity deterioration, as demonstrated in flash volatility spikes that occurred in global markets in 2015 are becoming increasingly common, while regulations have kept banks from taking steps that would increase liquidity and provide a shock absorber.
  5. A wave of consolidation that has concentrated market and transaction service providers in a less diverse and smaller number of institutions.
  6. A trend toward de-globalization as overseas market participants, seeking to avoid U.S. regulations, drive capital from U.S. markets and into smaller, fragmented liquidity pools.

“Divided markets are more fragile,” Giancarlo said, noting that the process increases the very risks that Dodd-Frank aims to prevent.

Comparing the financial markets to a natural ecosystem that thrives through diversity, Giancarlo noted that 19th Century naturalist Charles Darwin extolled adaptability over strength.

“Survivors are those who are most adaptable,” he said, adding that Dodd-Frank offers little guidance for managing emerging risks to global markets while leaving regulators “little bandwidth” to tame those threats.

“We must stop fighting the last crisis,” he said. “We must foster safe, sound and vibrant markets, if we are ever to avoid prolonged market stagnation.”