0% Fed Policy Hard on Money Funds

One third of money market funds are paying investors 0%, and yet November and December of 2011 saw $91.7 billion in inflows to money market funds, the highest for a two-month period since the one ended January 2009, when $195 billion was deposited. One main reason these funds are attracting assets is that they are thought to offer safety and liquidity, which investors are willing to pay a premium for. Despite new regulations that impose greater controls on the type and maturity profile of securities owned by these funds, there are no capital or reserve requirements and no FDIC insurance for money market funds. While the largest firms that offer these fund products are subsidizing the cost of safety and liquidity, and have a vested interest in keeping their fund shareholders “whole,” smaller funds may not be able to continue to do so. Because they are not insured, and unless they are Treasury-only funds, money market funds do contain credit risk. As investors saw with the Reserve Primary Fund in 2008, money market funds can be subject to traditional “runs” causing them to “break the buck.” At times like this either looking for FDIC insured accounts, or finding a professional manager who can help customize a cash management strategy for a given risk profile are probably safer bets.