Banks Double Treasury Buying

Demand for Treasuries reflects growing gap between U.S. banks’ deposits and loans.

The gap between U.S. bank deposits and loans is growing at the fastest pace in two years, providing lenders with more funds to buy bonds and temper the biggest sell-off in Treasuries since 2010.

As deposits increased 3.3 percent to $8.88 trillion in the two months ended July 31, business lending rose 0.7 percent to $7.11 trillion, Federal Reserve data show. The record gap of $1.77 trillion has expanded 15 percent since May, the biggest similar-period gain since July, 2010. Banks have already bought $136.4 billion in Treasury and government agency debt this year, more than double the $62.6 billion in all of 2011, pushing their holdings to an all-time high of $1.84 trillion.

Seeking Safety

Bank Treasury holdings reached $500 billion, the highest since June 2011, even with interest rates minus inflation for benchmark 10-year notes of 0.38 percent, compared to the average of 1.26 percent over the past decade.

Recession Legacy

Wall Street’s five biggest banks are off to their worst start in four years. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley had combined first-half revenue of $161 billion, down 4.5 percent from 2011 and the lowest since $135 billion in 2008. The firms blamed the decline on low interest rates and a drop in trading and deal-making.

Added Incentive

“We get a lot of deposits in,” he said. “The extra deposits of $423 billion, plus equity, plus some other net liabilities, give us $522 billion that’s not being lent out that we have to invest.”

Stimulus Pledge

Fed policy makers said Aug 1 they would provide more monetary stimulus “as needed.”

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