Mar 16, 2023 - Economy

Fed's emergency bank lending soars to new record

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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

Why it matters: The details came in a weekly Federal Reserve report released Thursday, which is sure to attract more attention for what it may reveal about stresses in the banking system after the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.

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

  • The previous record for discount window borrowing was $111 billion in 2008. It also reached $51 billion in the early days of the pandemic.
  • Banks also had $12 billion in credit from the Bank Term Funding Program, announced Sunday night, to make bank lending available on highly favorable terms. The report does not say which (or how many) banks tapped the facility and won't do so for another year.
  • The Fed also extended $143 billion to support the FDIC's guarantee of all depositors in failed Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.

Between the lines: Banks looking to access loans through the emergency facility can pledge long-term securities like Treasury bonds at their original value, allowing them to borrow against that even if those assets have fallen in volume.

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

The bottom line: The report sheds light on banks' demand for short-term cash in the early days of the fallout from the Silicon Valley Bank crisis. Further reports will be looked at for more evidence on how banks are doing.

  • Also on Thursday, a group of large banks, including JPMorgan, Bank of America and Citigroup, said they would infuse $30 billion in First Republic Bank, another West-coast regional lender that's been an emerging focus of widespread fears about financial contagion.
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