Apr 22, 2021 - Economy

The fall and fall of bank lending

Bank loans as a percentage of total deposits
Data: Federal Reserve via FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

Banks are taking in record deposits — they now have a record $16.8 billion, as of the most recent Fed report — but they're not doing a good job of turning around and lending them out.

By the numbers: Total bank loans and leases are now just 61.5% of the American deposit base. For the biggest banks, as Bloomberg's Shahien Nasiripour reports, that number falls to 53.7%, a new all-time low.

The big question: What are the banks doing with the rest of the money?

  • Simple: They're either keeping it in cash on deposit at the Fed, or they're buying public securities.

The big picture: Part of the idea behind the government's stimulus checks was that they would either be spent or saved — and that if they were saved, they would become bank deposits which would then get loaned to individuals and businesses, thereby further boosting the economy.

  • That didn't happen: Bank loans have been falling even as deposits have been rising.
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