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Abstract

This paper investigates the shifts in Latin American banks’ funding patterns in the post-global financial crisis period. To this end, we introduce a new measure of exposure of local banking systems to international debt markets that we term: International Debt Issuances by Locally Supervised Institutions. In contrast to well-known BIS measures, our new metric includes all entities that fall under the supervisory purview of the local authority. This is especially important in Latin America, where the participation of foreign banks that are established as independent, fully-capitalized entities is most substantial. Using this metric we found that all types of Latin American banking groups significantly and sharply increased their issuance of external debt securities during 2010-14. Owing to the low ratios of banks’ external debt to total liabilities in the pre-crisis period, solid solvency ratios and improved supervisory capacity, the increase in banks’ external indebtedness did not result in financial difficulties and, by mid-2015 banking systems remained strong. However, a preliminary analysis of risks based on this new trend reveals the emergence of several signs of increased vulnerability. Firstly, in some banking groups (particularly in Brazilian banks, domestic and foreign alike) the increased issuance of external debt was accompanied by a greater reliance on wholesale funding. In contrast, reliance on wholesale funding by Colombian banks remained low and stable. Secondly, rollover risks have significantly increased for Latin American banking groups. Maturing debt, which increased significantly in 2013-14, will continue at high levels in 2015-16 in the context of major uncertainties in international capital markets. This risk is especially noticeable in Brazil and Chile, whose ratios of maturing debt to total debt are high. Thirdly, despite a sizeable accumulation of international reserves, the large increase in banks’ external debt might have contributed to reducing the resilience of central banks to deal with severe adverse shocks.

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