Undun! Fed’s $8.6 Trillion Balance Sheet in Focus as Banks Seek Cash (25 BPS Increase At Next Meeting Then DOWN To 3.820% By Jan 2024)

Undun. The Fed’s balance sheet, that is.

For all the focus on whether the Federal Reserve is about to pause its interest-rate hikes, there’s another critical policy decision sure to draw plenty of attention come Wednesday: What the central bank does with its massive pile of bond holdings.

The banking-sector turmoil that has only appeared to deepen, combined with a previous increase in funding pressures, has left financial markets keenly attuned to what the Fed will say about its $8.6 trillion balance sheet. 

Until this month the stash had been shrinking as part of the Fed’s efforts to return it back to pre-pandemic levels. But now it has started to expand again as the Fed acts to bolster the banking system through a slate of emergency lending programs. Its latest step came Sunday, when it moved with other central banks to boost US dollar liquidity.

Some say financial-stability concern may spur policymakers to dial back the runoff of its bond portfolio, a process known as quantitative tightening that’s designed to drain reserves from the system. Still, others argue that even if the Fed does pause its rate increases, the central bank’s overarching goal of taming inflation means it’s unlikely it will signal any shift this week in efforts to shrink the holdings of Treasuries and mortgage-backed debt. The one exception, they note, would be if stress in the banking sector were to become much more severe.

The Fed’s move to backstop US banks “clearly expands the Fed’s balance sheet,” said Subadra Rajappa, head of US rates strategy at Societe Generale SA. If usage of the Fed’s liquidity facilities is “small and contained they probably continue QT, but if the take-up is large then they probably stop as it then starts to raise concerns over reserve scarcity.”

The fate of the Fed’s portfolio is a subject of debate after the collapse of several US lenders led the central bank to create a new emergency backstop, known as the Bank Term Funding Program, which it announced March 12. Banks borrowed $153 billion from the Fed’s discount window — lenders’ traditional liquidity backstop — in the week ended March 15, Fed data show, a record that eclipsed the previous all-time high set during the 2008 financial crisis. They also tapped the new program for $11.9 billion.

The central bank’s various liquidity programs added about $300 billion to the Fed’s balance sheet last week, reversing about half of the reduction the Fed has achieved since the runoff began last June. But some economists say the two programs can work in tandem, with the banking efforts targeting financial stability and QT remaining a steady part of the Fed’s plan to remove the support it provided during the pandemic.

It looks like a 25 basis point increase at the next meeting, then cuts in The Fed Funds Target Rate to 3.820% by January 2024.

The labor market is still tight. So tight, we get this!!

No Mystery To Me! US Banks on Bumpy Path as First Republic’s Troubles Persist (Senator Warren Calls For Investigation Into Banking)

Its no mystery to me that San Francisco’s First Republic Bank is hurting. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is calling for hearings into the banking meltdown. Hey Liz, look at San Francisco’s First Republic Bank as a case study.

The infamous Covid surge in M2 Money supply (green line) produced a big surge in bank price stocks, thanks in part to the insane spending that Congress made following Covid (I’m looking at you, Liz!). But now The Fed is slowing M2 Money growth and banks like First Republic are paying the price.

As The Fed tightens, earnings per share for First Republic (red line) have crashed and burned. Along with its stock price.

So, its not mystery to me what happened. Bernanke and Yellen’s “too low for too long” monetary policies were suddenly taken away to fight inflation (partially caused by Biden and Congress’ spending spree).

Since The Fed has been removing the punch bowl to fight inflation, the S&P 500 index and the KBW bank index have gotten crush. Since February 2nd, the S&P 500 index is down -6.3% while the KBW Bank index is down -31.4%.

In short, banks take in short-term deposits and lend long, earning the spread. But when rates start to rise, watch out!!

Fed Panics, Announces “Coordinated” Daily US Dollar Swap Lines To Ease Banking Crisis As 2-year Treasury Yield Drops -10 Basis Points (Again)

Its the start of a new week after the closure of several US banks (SVP, Signature) and the failure of Credit Suisse. But swaps spreads have calmed down a bit and are no where near the credit crisis highs of late 2008. Or the plain vanilla swap between fixed and variable contracts (white line) has simmered down a bit. BUT was never as high as it was during the financial crisis. Panic by The Fed and FDIC much?

And the 2-year Treasury yield dropped -10 basis points … again.

… and at exactly 5pm the Fed announced “coordinated central bank action to enhance the provision of U.S. dollar liquidity” by opening daily Dollar Swap lines with all major central banks, in a carbon copy repeat of the Fed’s panicked post-covid crisis policy response playbook.

The Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank, the Federal Reserve, and the Swiss National Bank are today announcing a coordinated action to enhance the provision of liquidity via the standing U.S. dollar liquidity swap line arrangements.

To improve the swap lines’ effectiveness in providing U.S. dollar funding, the central banks currently offering U.S. dollar operations have agreed to increase the frequency of 7-day maturity operations from weekly to daily. These daily operations will commence on Monday, March 20, 2023, and will continue at least through the end of April.

The network of swap lines among these central banks is a set of available standing facilities and serve as an important liquidity backstop to ease strains in global funding markets, thereby helping to mitigate the effects of such strains on the supply of credit to households and businesses.

And once the USD swap lines are reopened, the rest of the cavalry follows: rate cuts, QE (the real stuff, not that Discount Window nonsense), etc, etc. In fact, we have already seen a near record surge in reserve injections:

The Fed may as well formalize it now and at least preserve some confidence in the banking sector, even if it means destroying all confidence left in the “inflation fighting” Fed, with all those whose were in charge handing in their resignation for their catastrophic handling of this bank crisis.

The bank bailout express!

Gov’t Gone Wild! US Treasury 2-year Yields Down -32 Basis Points As Gold Soars 3.8% On Banking Nerves And Sloppy Joe’s Budget Proposal

Its Gov’t Gone Wild! Insane spending budget by “Sloppy Joe” Biden, Yellen asking Warren Buffet for banking advice (seriously??), a war in Ukraine that America doesn’t seem to actually want to win, etc. But its the banking system where banks are getting crushed by rising inflation and interest rates (but failed to hedge). Sigh.

As I always told my investments and fixe-income students at University of Chicago, Ohio State University and George Mason University, a 10 basis point change in the 2-year and 10-year US Treasury yield is a big deal. This morning, the US Treasury 2-year yield fell -32 basis points while the 10-year Treasury yield fell -14.8 basis points.

At the same time, gold 3.8% and silver rose 4.7% on banking fears.

While it shouldn’t pass the House vote (but you never know in Mordor on The Potomac), Sloppy Joe’s budget proposal is a joke.

  1. Debt would hit a new record by 2027, rising from 98 percent of GDP at the end of 2023 to 106 percent by 2027 and 110 percent by 2033. Nominal debt would grow by $19 trillion, from $24.6 trillion today to $43.6 trillion by 2033.
  2. Deficits would total $17.1 trillion (5.2 percent of GDP) between FY 2024 and 2033, rising to $2.0 trillion, or 5.1 percent of GDP, by 2033.
  3. Spending and revenue would average 24.8 and 19.7 percent of GDP, respectively, over the next decade, with spending reaching 25.2 percent of GDP and revenue totaling 20.1 percent by 2033. The 50-year historical average is 21.0 percent of GDP for spending and 17.4 percent of GDP for revenue.
  4. Proposals in the budget would reduce projected deficits by $3 trillion through 2033, including $400 billion through 2025 when it could help fight inflation. The budget proposes $2.8 trillion of new spending and tax breaks, $5.5 trillion of revenue and savings, and saves $330 billion from interest.
  5. The budget relies on somewhat optimistic economic assumptions, including stronger long-term growth, lower unemployment, and lower long-term interest rates than the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The budget assumes 0.4 percent growth this year, 2.1 percent growth next year, and 2.2 percent by the end of the decade – compared to CBO’s 0.1 percent, 2.5 percent, and 1.7 percent, respectively. The budget also assumes ten-year interest rates fall to 3.5 percent by 2033, compared to CBO’s 3.8 percent.

And then we have Sloppy Joe and Statist Janet Yellen meeting with mega donor Warren Buffet for advice on dealing with the banking crisis … made by Biden’s energy policy and insane Covid spending by the Administration. And, of course, The Fed’s “too low for too long” monetary policy. What is 92-year old Warren Buffet going to say?

Meanwhile, Fed Funds Futures are pointing to one more rate hike then a series of rate cuts down to 3.737 by January 2024.

Gold and silver are where its at!

This should be Joe Biden’s campaign slogan if he actually decides to run for reelection in 2024.

Strange Days! US Mortgage Rate Falls To 6.97% As Banking Crisis Persists (Yellen, Bank Consolidations, Bailouts And The Return Of QE)

Strange days, indeed.

Despite endless promises from Washington DC that there would never be another bank bailout, the Biden Administration bailed out Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) by removing the $250,000 cap on deposit insurance. Then Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen added that in the future, only banks that posed SYSTEMIC RISK to the economy will be bailed out. Translation: only the big four Too Big To Fail (TBTF) banks will be bailed out. Meaning that the Biden Administration prefers big banks to community banks. “Middle-class Joe” loves BIG Pharma, BIG defense, BIG tech, BIG media and now BIG banks. He should rename himself “Big Joe” Biden for the 2024 Presidential election.

Of course, we are aware of The Fed’s about face on shrinking their balance sheet (green line). While Bankrate’s 30-year mortgage rate has now declined below 7% to 6.97%, it has only fallen -15 basis points since the recent peak of 7.12% on 3/2/2023 when the 10-year Treasury yield was 4.056%. So, the 10-year Treasury yield has fallen -62.7 basis points since 3/2/2023 while the 30-year mortgage rate dropped only -15 basis points.

On the European banking front, Credit Suisse is kaput and both Swiss Bank and Deutsche Bank are considering buying the assets of Credit Suisse. In other words, MORE bank consolidation.

Here is a chart of US bank consideration as of 2009 with 37 banks in 1990 shriveling to 4 mega, TBTF banks in 2009 that remain today. But will the now unprotected community and local banks be absorbed into the 4 superbanks? Time will tell, but if history is repeated, the answer is yes.

The KBW bank index continued to fall despite the bailouts of SVB and Signature Banks. But at least total returns on Treasuries and MBS that banks hold increased with the return of QE!

Yellen and Biden compete for the Knucklehead Of The Century Award. While not as sloppy as the sudden Afghanistan withdrawal, bailing out the Silicon Valley elites will not end well.

US Leading Economic Indictors Plunge -6.5% YoY In February, Consumer Sentiment Falls (S&P 500 Down -1%)

Apparently, the only thing that is strong in the US economy is low-paying jobs. The economy as a whole is sucking wind as we can see with the Conference Board’s Leading Indictors plunging -6.5% Year-over-year (YoY) in February.

US consumer sentiment fell again … and has not been near 100 (baseline) since Covid struck.

And on the fears that the banking system is not well, the S&P 500 index is down -1.1% this morning.

Fed Dead Redemption! Flight To Safety As US Treasury 10-Year Yield Drops -16 Basis Points And Fed Discount Window Soars (Wrong Way Yellen Strikes Again!)

Its crisis time again.

First, The Fed’s discount window soared to its highest level since … you guessed it … the previous financial crisis of 2008/2009.

Second, the 10-year Treasury yield declined -16 basis points this morning as investors flee to safety.

Bankrate’s 3-year mortgage rate rose to 7%, but with today’s decline in the 10-year Treasury yield we should see mortgage rates declining.

Yes, much of the blame belongs to The Fed’s leadership (Bernanke, Yellen, Powell) for leaving rates too low for too long, then suddenly try to lower inflation by raising rates. Now we have The Fed’s balance sheet INCREASING again as the use of The Fed’s discount window soars to highest level since Lehman Bros fiasco.

Argentina Raises Benchmark Leliq Rate By 300 Basis Points To 78% To Fight Inflation Of 102.5% (While Fed INCREASES Balance Sheet To Fight Banking Crisis)

Cry for Argentina! Their central bank boosted its benchmark Leliq rate by 300 basis points to 78%. The monetary authority’s board considered the increase in response to accelerating inflation and after leaving the key rate unchanged for several months. 

Of course, the US Federal Reserve is going in the opposite direction to combat the US banking crisis created by inflation and Yellen’s “Too low for too long” Fed policies.

I am beginning to wonder in Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot are the same person. Both complete Statist screw-ups.

The NEW Banking Crisis In One Chart (Hint: Inflation = Fed Rate Hikes = Treasury/MBS Duration Increases = Bond Losses = Bank Runs) Bond Volatility Highest Since 2008

So, the Biden Administration made a horrible error by guaranteeing deposits at Silicon Valley Bank for deposits over $250,000. Essentially, Biden bailed out big tech that kept their deposits at SVB.

But what triggered the run on SVB and other banks? Simple. Biden and Congress spent like drunken sailors with Covid and The Federal Reserve went nuts printing money. Viola! We got inflation. But with inflation came The Fed’s attempt to get inflation back to its 2% target (difficult since Biden/Congress refuse to return spending to pre-Covid levels). But as interest rates rise, duration (weighted average life of MBS) rose dramatically meaning that risk increased. But banks like SVP ignored the risk, or didn’t hedge, or were spending time worrying about non-bank related issues.

So, what happened? Banks are holding Treasuries and MBS (orange line) that are getting clobbered with rate hikes (yellow line).

Talk about volatility. Today, the 2-year Treasury yield is up over 20 basis points as bond volatility hits levels last seen in 2008, just prior to the subprime credit crisis.

So, Biden’s bailout of SVP depositors stopped the deposit run for the moment. But if The Fed keeps hiking rates, banks are going to be hurting worse and worse. They could rebalance their portfolios and/or hedge. But with Uncle Spam (Biden) at the helm, bailouts are always on the table.

Not Always Sunny! Philadelphia Business Outlook Declines To -23 After Yesterday’s Dismal Empire State Print (Biden’s Magic Trick!)

It’s not always sunny in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Business outlook remains grim at -23. This comes after yesterday’s terrible Empire State print.

Between Biden’s energy policies and massive spending by Biden/Congress, we are seeing the raging effects of inflation on the economy.

Here is Biden’s Press Secretary trying to explain how marvelous the US economy is.