When investors decide to close out their riskier positions and move into “cash”, they don’t actually go to the bank and get a stack of twenties. Most just sell their stocks and let their broker sweep the proceeds into a money market fund which, they assume, is the same thing as cash because it holds high-quality short-term commercial paper that almost never defaults.
That pleasant assumption breaks down as soon as you look at a typical money market fund’s holdings and see that it owns, among other disturbing things, a lot of European bank debt.
But at least you can get your money out with a mouse click, right?
Well, maybe not. Apparently the Fed, cognizant of the potential weakness of the money fund system, is considering withdrawal limits: