A previous version of this working paper was originally published in July 2018.

We develop a dynamic model of trading through market-makers that incorporates two canonical sources of illiquidity: trading (or search) frictions, which imply that investors can rebalance their portfolio only with a delay; and information frictions, which imply that market-makers face some degree of adverse selection. We use this model to study the effects of various technological innovations and regulatory initiatives that have reduced trading frictions in over-the-counter markets. Our main result is that reducing trading frictions can lead to less liquidity, as measured by bid-ask spreads. The key insight is that more frequent trading makes investors’ behavior less dependent on asset quality. As a result, dealers learn about asset quality more slowly and set wider bid-ask spreads to compensate for this increase in uncertainty. We also show that widening bid-ask spreads do not necessarily correspond to a decline in trading volume or welfare.

View the Full Working Paper