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108 posts on "Banks"
July 12, 2021

Tailoring Regulations

Regulations are not written in stone. The benefits derived from them, along with the costs of compliance for affected institutions and of enforcement for regulators, are likely to evolve. When this happens, regulators may seek to modify the regulations to better suit the specific risk profiles of regulated entities. In this post, we consider the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (EGRRCPA) passed by Congress in 2018, which eased banking regulations for smaller institutions. We focus on one regulation—the Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR)—and assess how its relaxation affected newly exempt banks’ assets and liabilities, and the resilience of the banking system.

June 30, 2021

Hold the Check: Overdrafts, Fee Caps, and Financial Inclusion

Hold the Check: Overdrafts, Fee Caps, and Financial Inclusion

The 25 percent of low-income Americans without a checking account operate in a separate but unequal financial world. Instead of paying for things with cheap, convenient debit cards and checks, they get by with “fringe” payment providers like check cashers, money transfer, and other alternatives. Costly overdrafts rank high among reasons why households “bounce out” of the banking system and some observers have advocated capping overdraft fees to promote inclusion. Our recent paper finds unintended (if predictable) effects of overdraft fee caps. Studying a case where fee caps were selectively relaxed for some banks, we find higher fees at the unbound banks, but also increased overdraft credit supply, lower bounced check rates (potentially the costliest overdraft), and more low-income households with checking accounts. That said, we recognize that overdraft credit is expensive, sometimes more than even payday loans. In lieu of caps, we see increased overdraft credit competition and transparency as alternative paths to cheaper deposit accounts and increased inclusion.

Banking the Unbanked: The Past and Future of the Free Checking Account

Banking the Unbanked: The Past and Future of the Free Checking Account

About one in twenty American households are unbanked (meaning they do not have a demand deposit or checking account) and many more are underbanked (meaning they do not have the range of bank-provided financial services they need). Unbanked and underbanked households are more likely to be lower-income households and households of color. Inadequate access to financial services pushes the unbanked to use high-cost alternatives for their transactional needs and can also hinder access to credit when households need it. That, in turn, can have adverse effects on the financial health, educational opportunities, and welfare of unbanked households, thereby aggravating economic inequality. Why is access to financial services so uneven? The roots to part of this problem are historical, and in this post we will look back four decades to changes in regulation, shifts in the ownership structure of retail financial services, and the decline of free/low-cost checking accounts in the United States to search out a few of the contributory factors.

May 19, 2021

Keeping Borrowers Current in a Pandemic

Federal government actions in response to the pandemic have taken many forms. One set of policies is intended to reduce the risk that the pandemic will result in a housing market crash and a wave of foreclosures like the one that accompanied the Great Financial Crisis. An important and novel tool employed as part of these policies is mortgage forbearance, which provides borrowers the option to pause or reduce debt service payments during periods of hardship, without marking the loan delinquent on the borrower’s credit report. Widespread take-up of forbearance over the past year has significantly changed the housing finance system in the United States, in different ways for different borrowers. This post is the first of four focusing attention on the effects of mortgage forbearance and the outlook for the mortgage market. Here we use data from the New York Fed’s Consumer Credit Panel (CCP) to examine the effects of these changes on households during the pandemic.

April 12, 2021

How COVID-19 Affected First-Time Homebuyers

Efforts in the spring of 2020 to contain the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a sharp contraction in U.S. economic growth and an unprecedented, rapid rise in unemployment. While the first wave of the pandemic slowed the spring housing market, home sales rebounded sharply over the rest of the year, with strong gains in house prices. Given the rising house prices and continuing high unemployment, concerns arose that COVID-19 may have negatively affected first-time homebuyers. Using a new and more accurate measure of first-time homebuyers, we find that these buyers have not been adversely affected by the pandemic. At the same time, gains from lower mortgage rates have gone to existing homeowners and not to households purchasing their first home.

April 5, 2021

Do People View Housing as a Good Investment and Why?

Housing represents the largest asset owned by most households and is a major means of wealth accumulation, particularly for the middle class. Yet there is limited understanding of how households view housing as an investment relative to financial assets, in part because of their differences beyond the usual risk and return trade-off. Housing offers households an accessible source of leverage and a commitment device for saving through an amortization schedule. For an owner-occupied residence, it also provides stability and hedges for rising housing costs. On the other hand, housing is much less liquid than financial assets and it also requires more time to manage. In this post, we use data from our just released SCE Housing Survey to answer several questions about how households view this choice: Do households view housing as a good investment choice in comparison to financial assets, such as stocks? Are there cross-sectional differences in preferences for housing as an investment? What are the factors households consider when making an investment choice between housing and financial assets?

“Excess Savings” Are Not Excessive

How will the U.S. economy emerge from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic? Will it struggle to return to prior levels of employment and activity, or will it come roaring back as soon as vaccinations are widespread and Americans feel comfortable travelling and eating out? Part of the answer to these questions hinges on what will happen to the large amount of “excess savings” that U.S. households have accumulated since last March. According to most estimates, these savings are around $1.6 trillion and counting. Some economists have expressed the concern that, if a considerable fraction of these accumulated funds is spent as soon as the economy re-opens, the ensuing rush of demand might be destabilizing. This post argues that these savings are not that excessive, when considered against the backdrop of the unprecedented government interventions adopted over the past year in support of households and that they are unlikely to generate a surge in demand post-pandemic.

March 1, 2021

Will Capital Flows through Global Banks Support Economic Recovery?

Liberty Street Economics authors ask whether, based on precedent, global banks are likely to provide additional support to the economic recovery following COVID-19 in the locations they serve.

February 18, 2021

How Competitive are U.S. Treasury Repo Markets?

The Treasury repo market is at the center of the U.S. financial system, serving as a source of secured funding as well as providing liquidity for Treasuries in the secondary market. Recently, results published by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) raised concerns that the repo market may be dominated by as few as four banks. In this post, we show that the secured funding portion of the repo market is competitive by demonstrating that trading is not concentrated overall and explaining how the pricing of inter-dealer repo trades is available to a wide-range of market participants. By extension, rate-indexes based on repo trades, such as SOFR, reflect a deep market with a broad set of participants.

February 11, 2021

Did Subsidies to Too-Big-To-Fail Banks Increase during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

New Liberty Street Economics analysis by Asani Sarkar investigates whether the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in implicit TBTF subsidies for large firms.

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