liquidity preference

In economics, the premium that holders of wealth demand for exchanging ready money or bank deposits for safe, nonliquid assets such as government bonds. As first used by John Maynard Keynes, liquidity preference referred to the demand for money as an asset. He hypothesized that the amount of money held for this purpose would vary inversely with the rate of interest. Post-Keynesian analysis of liquidity preference has identified other factors that influence the demand for money, including income levels and the yields of various forms of wealth.

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A flight-to-liquidity is a financial market phenomenon occurring when investors sell what they perceive to be less liquid or higher risk investments, and purchase more liquid investments instead, such as US Treasuries. Usually, flight-to-liquidity quickly results in panic leading to a crisis.

For example, after the Russian government defaulted on its government bonds (GKOs) in 1998 many investors sold European and Japanese government bonds and purchased on-the-run US Treasuries instead. (The most recently issued treasuries, known as “on-the-run”, have larger trading volumes, that is more liquidity, than treasury issues that have been superseded, known as “off-the run”.) This widened the spread between off-the-run and on-the-run US Treasuries, which ultimately led to the 1998 collapse of the Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund.

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