Private and public comments by Fed officials show that they do not share Wall Street's degree of concern about liquidity, and do not believe that capital rules are solely to blame for the bond market's growing tendency to seize up.
Effectively, regulators are telling the industry it is the responsibility of banks, funds and other market players to protect themselves.
"It's hard to find any financial market player who doesn't talk about being concerned about potential liquidity issues," Eric Rosengren, president of the Boston Fed, which oversees many of the country's largest asset managers, told Reuters.
"So it would surprise me if I found that people were using a particular model and didn't use any intuition about what goes into those models, and what might happen if everybody blindly uses those models."
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At last week's congressional hearings, Fed Chair Janet Yellen resisted pressure by Republicans to acknowledge that new capital rules were destabilizing markets.
"You see this decline in liquidity in some measures, but not others," she told senators on Thursday.
The Fed's assertive stance is setting the stage for more volatile fixed income markets and where liquidity droughts could be the price of doing business in bond markets.
The message—in public addresses, reports to Congress, and even an investigation into market turmoil last October—is that less liquidity is a necessary consequence of regulatory reform and fitting for an economy that is getting ready for tighter monetary policy.
Investors cite many causes of market vulnerability: primary dealers holding far fewer bonds and the Fed holding far more; bans on some broker proprietary trading; a growing reliance on high-frequency trading; worries that funds will not have enough assets to withstand a firesale by clients; and rising volatility, especially in the emerging markets that could see big selloffs when the Fed hikes rates.
Overall U.S. bond market volatility has risen 60 percent since a mid-2014 low, according to Bank of America/Merrill Lynch's MOVE index, which measures the implied volatility of U.S. Treasury markets—a statistic that underscores liquidity concerns.