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Date Submitted: 09/11/2012 07:47 AM

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Definition of 'Liquidity'

Liquidity is the degree to which an asset or security can be bought or sold in the market without affecting the asset's price. Liquidity is characterized by a high level of trading activity. Assets that can be easily bought or sold are known as liquid assets.

In business and investments

Liquidity is how easily an asset can be converted to cash. After the 2008 financial crisis, homeowners found out that houses had little liquidity. That's because the home price fell below the mortgage owed. Many owners had to allow the home to foreclose, losing all their investment.

In banking

Liquidity is the ability to meet obligations when they come due without incurring unacceptable losses. Managing liquidity is a daily process requiring bankers to monitor and project cash flows to ensure adequate liquidity is maintained. Maintaining a balance between short-term assets and short-term liabilities is critical. For an individual bank, clients' deposits are its primary liabilities (in the sense that the bank is meant to give back all client deposits on demand), whereas reserves and loans are its primary assets (in the sense that these loans are owed to the bank, not by the bank). The investment portfolio represents a smaller portion of assets, and serves as the primary source of liquidity. Investment securities can be liquidated to satisfy deposit withdrawals and increased loan demand. Banks have several additional options for generating liquidity, such as selling loans, borrowing from other banks, borrowing from a central bank, such as the Bangladesh Bank, and raising additional capital. In a worst case scenario, depositors may demand their funds when the bank is unable to generate adequate cash without incurring substantial financial losses. In severe cases, this may result in a bank run. Most banks are subject to legally-mandated requirements intended to help banks avoid a liquidity crisis.

Banks can generally maintain as much liquidity as desired...