Ever since the 2008 financial collapse, banks have reduced their lending while accumulating U.S. Treasuries. On the surface placing capital into the safest depositor may seem prudent. On the other hand, Why Big Banks Are Suddenly Interested in Talking to You Again? According to Inc, “After years of turning away small-business borrowers, the country’s largest banks are now granting one out of five loan applications they receive. The 20 percent benchmark represents a post-recession high for big banks (assets of $10B+). Further, small banks have been approving more than half of the funding requests they receive.”
Such news would normally be welcomed. The Sovereign Man article, Here’s Why US Banks Are Now Extremely Vulnerable, presents a sober warning that the banking industry is at risk from a bond market sell-off.
“In just the last month alone American banks increased their holdings of US treasuries by $54 billion, to a record $1.99 trillion.
Facing $127 trillion in unfunded liabilities – which is nearly double 2012’s total global output – and with no inclination to reduce those numbers at all, at this point disaster for the US is entirely unavoidable.
Under the rather arbitrary Bank of International Settlements Basel capital adequacy rules government debt rated at least AA continues to carry a “zero risk” weighting. Meaning that banks do not need to set aside capital against it.
Beyond that, regulations imposed after the last crash to reduce risk require banks to hold $100 billion in liquid assets, which of course includes bonds. Thus, they are not only encouraged, but actually forced to buy government bonds.”
The fundamental change in the last six years is that the banks were rescued from normal capital requirements under a zero interest rate discount window. The inevitable result starved the small business and personal borrowing market from obtaining loans. With the loosing of funds to finance business and consumers, could the dire warning that the banks understand they need to rotate out of Treasuries, be the reason for the shift in lending?