Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Fed Should Reverse Course

 Financial FAQs


The wild fluctuations of the 10-year Constant Maturity Treasury yield portrayed in the above St. Louis Fed graph should have alerted Federal Governors and Chairman Powell to the dangers of raising interest rates too quickly.

It is the reason three US banks have failed, who wouldn’t either hedge against or reduce their holdings backed by Treasury securities that lost value as interest rates rose.

It’s also why the Fed should begin to reverse course to lower their overnight rate target that is now at 4.5-4.75 percent.

The decline in confidence of our banking system can in part be attributed to the Fed Governors naiveté, or maybe outright ignorance, of the US banking system they are supposed to regulate.

For instance, Fed Governors did not seem to realize the risk to depositors of banks holding deposits worth more than the $250,000 ceiling set by the FDIC for insured deposits. It was 97 percent in the case of Silicon Valley Bank.

The Fed seems to have been its own worst enemy in not realizing the effect of its policy actions, as evidenced by February’s FOMC minutes.

“With respect to the relationship between monetary policy and financial stability, some participants noted that evidence regarding the link between the policy stance and elevated financial vulnerabilities was limited, with a couple of participants further observing that there were not many episodes of persistently low interest rates.”

Yet Silicon Valley Bank had been on the San Francisco Fed’s watch list for more than one year as the Fed Governors charged ahead with their rate hike policy. “By July 2022,” as reported by the NYTimes, “Silicon Valley Bank was in full supervisory review, and was ultimately rated deficient for governance and controls.”

“In addition,” continued the FOMC minutes, “some past episodes of heightened financial vulnerabilities were associated with excessive risk-taking behavior that did not seem to be very responsive to typical changes in interest rates.”

Really? The NY Times and others have reported on the hands-off attitude of Fed regulators in not doing more to demand that banks—particularly those vulnerable to large uninsured deposits—crack down on such risky behavior.

So the Fed might call a halt to its policy of taming an inflation that is mostly caused by factors outside of the Fed’s control, and focus more on banking supervision that is under its direct control.

A 2022 Gallup survey found that just 27 percent of Americans had a “great deal/quite a lot” of confidence in our banks.

At the very least, the Fed should reverse course and begin to bring down interest rates before more banks fail, and more Americans lose faith in our banking system.

Harlan Green © 2023

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

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