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Banks in Turmoil

Banks are borrowing less from the Federal Reserve

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Apr 14, 2023
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New central bank data shows that banks borrowed about $9 billion less from the Fed in the week ending April 12, according to Krishna Guha, vice chair of Evercore ISI. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Banks in Turmoil

Banks are borrowing less from the Federal Reserve

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Apr 14, 2023
Heard on:
New central bank data shows that banks borrowed about $9 billion less from the Fed in the week ending April 12, according to Krishna Guha, vice chair of Evercore ISI. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
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In addition to earnings reports, another measure of banks’ health was reported this week: how much money the Federal Reserve is continuing to lend to banks. And turns out that banks are borrowing less, which is tentative good news.

After Silicon Valley Bank failed last month, the Fed sprang into action to make sure banks had plenty of money, offering loans from its traditional backstop, known as the discount window — and creating a new lending program.

“So the Federal Reserve, we have to remember, is the lender of last resort,” said Mayra Rodriguez Valladares, managing principal of MRV Associates.

Over the past few weeks, she said that banks have been borrowing less from the Fed.

“So the fact that they are now borrowing less means that they’re trying to get back to normal.”

Trying is the operative word there. New central bank data shows banks borrowed about $9 billion less from the Fed in the week ending April 12, according to Krishna Guha, vice chair of Evercore ISI. But the Fed still lent them about $139 billion — way more than normal.

“So this is certainly not business as usual,” Guha said.

Tracking the banks’ borrowing from the Fed is kind of like taking their vital signs, Guha added — and banks are like a patient who had a heart attack in March. 

“The patient is still not in good shape and will be, I think, debilitated, at a minimum for quite some time to come,” he said.

Guha thinks we’re headed for a chronic condition where Fed lending to banks doesn’t increase, but banks are still under stress. 

John Canavan, lead analyst at Oxford Economics, is seeing the same thing. He thinks banks will be reluctant to lend out any extra cash they have on hand.

“They put their hand on a hot stove. They’re not going to be so quick to move back toward that stove,” he said.

If we fall into a recession later this year, Canavan said that banks will pull back from lending even more — even though they’ll still have the Fed backstopping them.

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