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Repurchase Agreements

A repurchase agreement (repo) is a form of short-term borrowing for dealers in government securities. In the case of a repo, a dealer sells government securities to investors, usually on an overnight basis, and buys them back the following day at a slightly higher price. That small difference in price is the implicit overnight interest rate. Repos are typically used to raise short-term capital. They are also a common tool of central bank open market operations.

 

For the party selling the security and agreeing to repurchase it in the future, it is a repo; for the party on the other end of the transaction, buying the security and agreeing to sell in the future, it is a reverse repurchase agreement.

Repurchase agreements are generally considered safe investments because the security in question functions as collateral, which is why most agreements involve U.S. Treasury bonds. Classified as a money-market instrument, a repurchase agreement functions in effect as a short-term, collateral-backed, interest-bearing loan. The buyer acts as a short-term lender, while the seller acts as a short-term borrower. The securities being sold are the collateral. Thus the goals of both parties, secured funding and liquidity, are met.