Fed bank lending high after Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank bankruptcies

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Emergency loans to banks reached a new high in the week to Wednesday, surpassing previous highs reached during the 2008 financial crisis.

why is it important: Details came in a Federal Reserve weekly report published on Thursday, which is sure to attract more attention for what it may reveal about the strains in the banking system after the Silicon Valley Bank bankruptcies and Signature Bank.

By the numbers: As of Wednesday, banks had $153 billion in “discount window” loans, a longstanding tool through which the Fed provides liquidity to banks in need of cash by lending against strong collateral.

  • The previous record for borrowing at the discount window was $111 billion in 2008. It also hit $51 billion at the start of the pandemic.
  • The banks also had $12 billion in credit from the Bank Term Financing Program, announced on Sunday evening, to make bank loans available on very favorable terms. The report does not specify which banks (or how many) have used the facility and will not do so for another year.
  • The Fed also granted $143 billion to support the FDIC guarantee to all depositors of the failed Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.

Between the lines: Banks seeking to access loans through the emergency facility can pledge long-term securities such as treasury bills at their original value, allowing them to borrow against it even if these assets have decreased in volume.

  • The total value of the pledged securities was about $16.9 billion on Wednesday, which is higher than the value of the loan, suggesting that the banks have not yet borrowed as much as their collateral allows.

The bottom line: The report sheds light on banks’ demand for short-term liquidity as the fallout from the Silicon Valley Bank crisis begins. Other reports will be reviewed for more evidence on how the banks are doing.

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