Liquidity

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Liquidity

 

the mobility of the assets of enterprises, firms, or banks in capitalist countries, ensuring the genuine ability (capability) to pay off within a given period all liabilities and lawful monetary claims.

The degree of liquidity is defined as the ratio between the ready money and quickly salable assets of an enterprise, firm, or bank and the sum of its short-term liabilities. Quickly salable (liquid) assets include government securities, the stocks and bonds of large corporations (which can always be sold on the stock exchange), fixed-term promissory notes of respectable firms (which are accepted without difficulty for discounting and rediscounting by banks), and gold and other precious metals. Also included in calculations of liquidity is assured debtor liability, that is, accounts receivable and the like that can be repayed on first request or within a brief period. Easily salable material-commodity resources are also considered among the liquid assets of industrial and commercial enterprises. The higher the percentage of assets that can be rapidly converted into ready cash, the greater the liquidity of an enterprise, firm, or bank.

The liquidity of commercial banks—the uninterrupted payment of depositor claims—is of particular importance in the capitalist economic system. In order to assure such liquidity, legislation on banking usually establishes the level of cash reserves that commercial banks must maintain in a central bank; the level is determined as a percentage of the total current assets and term deposits and is referred to as a minimum bank reserve.

Business fluctuations and, in particular, economic crises lower the liquidity of enterprises, firms, and banks and lead to many bankruptcies. Under the conditions of the general crisis of capitalism, the liquidity of less powerful banks is declining; they are being absorbed by larger banks, which in turn merge into giant banks.

A specific form of liquidity is international liquidity, defined as the ratio between the gold currency reserves of governments and central banks of the capitalist countries and the sum of their foreign payments that must be guaranteed by these reserves. After World War II this ratio declined, leading to a sharp aggravation of the problem of international liquidity. Circulation related to foreign trade expanded considerably, in terms of physical volume and especially in terms of value. This expansion was a result of general inflation and the rise of prices, combined with an uneven distribution of gold-currency reserves and the relatively stable level of the overall total of these reserves. (This stability is due in part to the depressed price of gold, which was artificially maintained by the USA: prior to December 1971 the price of gold was $35 per troy ounce, after which it rose to $38 and then, in February 1973, to $42.20.)

M. G. POLIAKOV

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