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Fed, SEC Will Carefully Watch Brexit Fallout, Promise Coordination

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U.S. regulators, including the Federal Reserve Board and Securities and Exchange Commission, were quick to respond Friday morning to the U.K.’s vote Thursday to exit the European Union by stating that they are carefully watching the global economic environment and are coordinating with other regulators accordingly.

The Fed released a statement saying that it is “carefully monitoring developments in global financial markets, in cooperation with other central banks,” adding that it is “prepared to provide dollar liquidity through its existing swap lines with central banks, as necessary, to address pressures in global funding markets, which could have adverse implications for the U.S. economy.”

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew noted in his statement that the people of the United Kingdom “have spoken and we respect their decision.” He stressed that “we continue to monitor developments in financial markets,” and that he’s been “in regular contact in recent weeks with my counterparts and financial market participants in the U.K., EU and globally and we are continuing to consult closely.”

Policymakers in the U.K. and elsewhere, Lew said, “have the tools necessary to support financial stability, which is key to economic growth,” adding that Treasury will “work closely with both London and Brussels and our international partners to ensure continued economic stability, security and prosperity in Europe and beyond.”

The G7 Ministers and Governors issued a joint statement that they “respect the intention expressed today by the people of the United Kingdom to exit from the European Union” and that they are “monitoring market developments” and affirmed their assessment that “the UK economy and financial sector remain resilient and are confident that the UK authorities are well-positioned to address the consequences of the referendum outcome.”

The added that while they “recognize that excessive volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates can have adverse implications for economic and financial stability” the G7 central banks “have taken steps to ensure adequate liquidity and to support the functioning of markets. We stand ready to use the established liquidity instruments to that end.”

The Dow Jones industrial average had dropped more than 500 points as of press time early Friday afternoon.

(Check out all of ThinkAdvisor’s news and analysis on Brexit.)

SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White noted in her statement that the agency continues “to closely monitor the markets and have been in regular communication with financial institutions, exchanges and market utilities, as well as our financial regulatory counterparts.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan weighed in with a short statement that he “respects the decision made by the people of the United Kingdom,” and that the U.K. “is an indispensable ally of the United States, and that special relationship is unaffected by this vote.”

The Fed voted to leave rates unchanged on June 15.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen told senators Tuesday that the U.K. exiting the European Union could be “significant” for the U.K. and Europe, ushering in a period of economic “uncertainty and volatility that would negatively affect financial conditions” there as well as the U.S. economic outlook. Yellen said that the financial market reaction could possibly include a “kind of risk-off sentiment impact … on financial markets, with a flight to safety flows that push up the dollar and other safe-haven currencies.” The Fed, Yellen continued, “will consider those impacts as we make future decisions on monetary policy.”

When pressed on whether a Brexit could throw the U.S. economy into recession, Yellen responded: “I don’t think that’s the most likely case, but we’ll have to watch it carefully.”

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who heads the Financial Services Roundtable — a trade group representing banks, asset managers and insurers — noted that “Brexit is a significant development that takes the U.K. and markets into uncharted waters. Since markets don’t like uncertainty, market volatility could prevail for a while, but the U.S. financial system has taken major steps to prepare for and navigate through new challenges and it is well-positioned to continue to serve and help customers.”

Individual investors, Pawlenty counseled, “should seek the advice of professional investment advisors as they contemplate the implications of these events.” 

(Check out all of ThinkAdvisor’s news and analysis on Brexit.)

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