March 16


Money Talk: Mark to Market

By Paul J Rocha

March 16, 2023

Home » Blog » Economy » Money Talk: Mark to Market

Mark to market is a commonly used accounting method in the financial industry. Essentially, it involves valuing assets and liabilities based on their current market value, rather than their original purchase price or cost. This means that an asset or liability is revalued periodically to reflect changes in market conditions. The process is done on a daily basis and aims to provide investors and businesses with a clear and accurate picture of their financial position.

Mark to market has several benefits for investors and businesses. Firstly, it helps to ensure transparency in financial reporting. By valuing assets and liabilities based on their current market value, mark to market enables investors and businesses to see the true value of their holdings. This is particularly important in volatile markets, where prices can fluctuate rapidly.

Another benefit of mark to market is that it can help to reduce the risk of fraud. By requiring regular revaluations of assets and liabilities, mark to market makes it more difficult for companies or individuals to overstate the value of their holdings. This can help to protect investors and ensure that financial reporting is accurate and trustworthy.

However, mark to market also has some drawbacks. One of the main issues is that it can lead to volatility in financial reporting. This is because the value of assets and liabilities can fluctuate rapidly in response to market conditions. For example, a company that owns a large portfolio of stocks may see its financial position change dramatically if there is a sudden drop in the stock market.

Despite its drawbacks, mark to market is widely used in the financial industry. It is used in a variety of markets and sectors, including the stock market, commodities market, and foreign exchange market. It is also used by banks and other financial institutions to value their assets and liabilities.

One notable example of mark to market in action is the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). SVB was a California-based bank that specialized in serving the technology industry. The bank had a large portfolio of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and government bonds.

However, SVB was not required to use mark to market to value its MBS and government bonds. Instead, the bank used a different accounting method known as "held to maturity". This meant that SVB valued its MBS and government bonds based on their original purchase price, rather than their current market value.

The decision not to use mark to market may have contributed to SVB's collapse. When interest rates increased substantially in 2022, the value of SVB's MBS and government bond portfolio plummeted. However, because the bank was not using mark to market, it did not immediately recognize the losses. This led to a misleading reporting of the true value of the bank's holdings, and ultimately contributed to its failure.

In conclusion, mark to market is a widely used accounting method in the financial industry. It provides investors and businesses with transparency and accuracy in financial reporting, but also has some drawbacks, such as volatility in financial reporting. The collapse of SVB serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of using mark to market to accurately value assets and liabilities. 

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