The Federal Reserve is doing too much, all at once

Fed is currently trying to raise interest rates to fight inflation, but this risks slowing the economy and causing unemployment. The Federal Reserve is trying to raise interest rates to fight inflation, but this risks slowing the economy and causing unemployment.

The Federal Reserve is doing too much, all at once


Stress has been exacerbated by the Fed's monetary policy. It's a major issue.


The inflation rate is estimated to be around

It is vital for the

Federal Reserve

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Don't forget to preserve the stability of your financial system. Each of these goals stands out on its own. When you combine them in the current climate, it can be a problem. The Fed's tightening of financial conditions to combat inflation has led to a wave of bank failures. It may be creating a wave of financial instability, which could spread to the rest of the economy and lead to rising unemployment. As the movie shows, when you combine too many seemingly benign factors and add a great deal of complexity, you can create a self-contradictory nihilistic mix that can completely spin your world out of control. Mark Zandi said, "This is an uncomfortable moment," in a Tuesday conversation. "I believe it will be okay, but I also think that we are just a few small bank failures from people losing confidence in the system and losing faith that their savings are safe. If that happens, then who knows?" Zandi, to be clear, is cautiously optimistic regarding the strength and stability the economy and the Fed's fight against inflation. From what I've seen so far, regulators like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Treasury and the Fed are doing an excellent job in keeping the financial system running during these turbulent times. If you're a long-term investment, it may be better to stick with your plan - so long as you feel confident you can weather the challenges that are ahead. It's important to store cash in a safe and convenient place. This could be a FDIC-insured account or a money market fund with high-quality government bonds. It's likely that more unpleasantness will be in store. Financial system under pressure, new problems may start to appear in unexpected places.

Bank failures

The hearings of the Congress last week highlighted that regional banks failed because they had their own problems but were also hurt by the systemic pressures affecting many institutions.

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Silicon Valley Bank

The biggest U.S. banking failure since 2008 occurred on March 10, when collapsed. The classic bank run was given a 2023 twist: social media sparked the panic and involved depositors worth billions of dollars. Signature Bank in New York had franchises in both commercial real estate and cryptocurrency. It, too, succumbed after depositors took money out en masse.

Both banks were inspected by regulators. They invoked emergency powers to ensure depositors could access their money, even if they had more than the FDIC's standard limit of $250,000. The failed banks are now run by new operators.

Who is at fault?

It's easy to find someone to blame. There is no doubt that these banks were poorly run. Michael S. Barr - the Fed's vice chairman for supervision - rated Silicon Valley Bank with a blunt assessment. He told a Senate Committee that the bank's failure was a textbook example of mismanagement. Martin Gruenberg was equally harsh in his criticism of Signature Bank. Its "management" had not been able to provide accurate information on the amount of emergency cash that the bank would need to survive. The regulators' supervision appears to be inadequate. Dodd-Frank, the law that was supposed to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis, has been weakened. This may have contributed to the current problems. In 2018, the Trump administration exempted medium-sized banks from federal regulations. This was done with the help of former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass. ), one of the laws' authors who joined the Signature Board in 2015. Members of Congress are now considering tighter regulation. It's too late for the banks in question, but it may be just in time to prevent future problems. Investigative work is underway.

The Fed's role

Stress has been exacerbated by the Fed's monetary policy. It's a major issue. In the current bailouts the Fed has created a new money channel: the Bank Term Funding Program. Do not be fooled by the name. This program is very powerful. It temporarily protects banks in trouble from the massive decline of bond prices and mortgage-backed security that was caused largely by the Fed’s campaign to combat inflation by increasing interest rates. Any bond fund owner knows that the last year was one of the worst in history for bonds. Bond prices have never fallen so far when bond yields (aka rates of interest) increase. When interest rates were low, banks bought a lot of long-term debt. Three economists from the University of Pennsylvania, Itamar Drechsler, and Philipp Schnabl of New York University estimate that they could collectively be facing paper losses of up to $1.7 trillion. The Fed's emergency bailout program allows banks to present their depreciated securities and receive the full value of them for a period up to one year. It's not just a clever solution, but also a reasonable one when you realize that the Fed has similar staggering losses on its balance sheet due to its innovative policies implemented since 2008. Quantitative easing allowed the Fed to buy nearly $9 trillion worth of bonds and securities, which helped to boost the interest rates to near zero that were imposed in order to stimulate the economy during the recessions in 2007-08 and in 2020. With inflation on the rise, the Fed is raising interest rates, and, until these bank bailouts, has been reducing its troves of securities through quantitative tightening.

The Quandary

The banking crisis is fascinating because it was partly caused by the Fed and that they are now helping to boost its economy - as long as these problems remain contained. The Fed wants to squelch inflation, and bank failures can trigger a credit squeeze that could help it achieve this goal quickly. Jerome Powell, Fed chair, stated as much during a March 22 news conference.

He said that "in principle" he meant "as a question of fact".

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You can consider it to be the equivalent of an interest rate increase or even more." What is the impact on the financial system of the new policy? He admitted that he could not "make an assessment of the financial system today with any accuracy whatsoever."

The Fed's limited control over shadow banks is one reason for the imprecision. Money market funds with interest rates of nearly 5% have attracted billions from traditional banks. Private equity firms, which control large portions of the economy, and mortgage-issuing corporations that finance private homebuying are also included. These institutions are also affected by the problems that traditional banks face, though in a less obvious and quantifiable way. At this point, it's difficult to gauge the impact of financial tightening in important sectors like commercial real-estate, which has been severely affected by rising interest rates and the unwillingness of many workers return to work. Regional banks hold a disproportionate amount of commercial real estate mortgages, which could cause serious problems. It's also amazing that the Fed, like in past crises, could have eased many of these issues if they began flooding the economy. As long as the inflation rate is high, the Fed will not be willing to change course. A major financial collapse, and the accompanying economic recession would certainly change the Fed's plan. This has happened in the past, when Lehman Bros. collapsed in 2008 and COVID-19 spread in 2020. With any luck, this won't happen. Maybe the Fed can beat inflation without changing course. It's possible and I hope for it.

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