Benchmarks in Search Markets

Benchmarks in Search Markets

By
Darrell Duffie, Piotr Dworczak, Haoxiang Zhu
Journal of Finance. October
2017, Vol. 72, Issue 5, Pages 1983-2044

We characterize the price-transparency role of benchmarks in over-the-counter markets. A benchmark can, under conditions, raise social surplus by increasing the volume of beneficial trade, facilitating more efficient matching between dealers and customers, and reducing search costs. Although the market transparency promoted by benchmarks reduces dealers’ profit margins, dealers may nonetheless introduce a benchmark to encourage greater market participation by investors.  Low-cost dealers may also introduce a benchmark to increase their market share relative to high-cost dealers.  We construct a revelation mechanism that maximizes welfare subject to search frictions, and show conditions under which it coincides with announcing the benchmark.