Fed Policy Is Smothering Private Lending

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/fed-policy-is-smothering-private-lending-11615250626


The 25 largest U.S. banks currently hold 45.7% of their assets in loans and leases, according to Fed data released Friday, down from 54.1% this time last year. Meantime, their year-over-year holdings of Treasury and agency securities increased 33.5%. This reflects more-stringent borrowing standards and diminished loan demand. But it also reveals a subtle yet persistent change in how banks operate.

Banks have pulled back from making risky loans in favor of engaging more directly with the Fed — avoiding the type of lending that spawned stricter regulatory standards after 2008 while readily accommodating the Fed’s expressed satisfaction with an “ample reserves” regime. Bank lending to small businesses has remained low throughout the postcrisis years, with the largest declines in small-business lending at large banks, as shown in a 2018 report commissioned by the Small Business Administration.

The switch is understandable. The cost of regulatory compliance is a huge disincentive for banks, and selling government-backed securities to the Fed and piling up reserves can turn out to be a profitable business model.

Author(s): Judy Shelton

Publication Date: 8 March 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

America Went on a Borrowing Binge, but Banks Were Left Out

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/america-went-on-a-borrowing-binge-but-banks-were-left-out-11612953008


Large U.S. lenders saw their loan books shrink in 2020 for the first time in more than a decade, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by Jason Goldberg, a banking analyst at Barclays. The 0.5% drop was just the second decline in 28 years.

Bank of America Corp.’s loans and leases dropped by 5.7%. Citigroup Inc.’s loans dropped by 3.4% and Wells Fargo & Co.’s shrank by 7.8%. Among the biggest four banks, only JPMorgan Chase & Co. had more loans at the end of the year than the start.

Lenders are flush with cash that they want to put to use, and executives say they are hopeful loan growth will pick up in 2021. Brisk lending typically suggests there is enough momentum in the economy to give companies and consumers the confidence to borrow. But the current weakness suggests questions remain about the vigor of the economic recovery.

Author(s): Ben Eisen

Publication Date: 10 February 2021

Publication Site: WSJ