Banks Borrow $164.8 Billion From Fed in Rush to Backstop Liquidity

(Bloomberg) -- Banks borrowed a combined $164.8 billion from two Federal Reserve backstop facilities in the most recent week, a sign of escalated funding strains in the aftermath of Silicon Valley Bank’s failure.

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Data published by the Fed showed $152.85 billion in borrowing from the discount window — the traditional liquidity backstop for banks — in the week ended March 15, a record high, up from $4.58 billion the previous week. The prior all-time high was $111 billion reached during the 2008 financial crisis.

The data also showed $11.9 billion in borrowing from the Fed’s new emergency backstop known as the Bank Term Funding Program, which was launched Sunday.

Taken together, the credit extended through the two backstops show a banking system that is still fragile and dealing with deposit migration in the wake of the failure of Silicon Valley Bank of California and Signature Bank of New York last week.

Other credit extensions totaled $142.8 billion during the week, which reflects lending by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to bridge banks for SVB and Signature Bank.

All told, the emergency loans reversed around half of the balance-sheet shrinkage that the Fed has achieved since it began so-called quantitative tightening — allowing its portfolio of assets to run down — in June last year. And the central bank’s reserve balances jumped by some $440 billion in a week — which “basically reversed all the Fed’s QT efforts,” according to Capital Economics.

“It is about in line with what we expected,” said Michael Gapen, head of US economics for Bank of America Securities in New York. Gapen said the higher rates of discount-window borrowing over the new Bank Term Funding facility may reflect the broader set of collateral that banks are able to pledge at the window.

On Thursday afternoon, the nation’s biggest banks agreed upon a plan to deposit about $30 billion with First Republic Bank in an effort orchestrated by the US government to stabilize the battered California lender.

The US Treasury and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. stepped in and exercised unusual powers over the weekend to protect all depositors of both SVB and Signature. Typically, depositors are only insured up to $250,000.

The Fed also took the extraordinary step of extending the safety net by guaranteeing banks would have enough liquidity to meet all deposit needs. The BTFP allows banks to tender government collateral at par in exchange for a one-year loan. Government officials said at the time that there was enough collateral in the banking system to cover all depositors.

Analysts at JPMorgan Chase & Co. estimated $2 trillion as an upper level for how much liquidity the new backstop could ultimately provide, although they also developed a smaller calculation of around $460 billion based on the amount of uninsured deposits at six US banks that have the highest ratio of uninsured deposits over total deposits.

(Updates with reversal of QT in sixth paragraph.)

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