|Wall Street Banks Have $1.46 Trillion at Fed Doing Nothing|
And it’s forecast to reach a startling $2.6 trillion in the next year.
This cash doesn’t do anything for the American economy, say leading analysts, who have called for the bounty to be freed up to create jobs and spark lending. Instead, it sits in Ben Bernanke’s vault earning banks a miserable rate of return — .25 percent.
This huge rainy day fund, started in 2010 as a way for banks to have a pool of assets to tap should they have liquidity problems, has now become a deluge. The accounts at the Fed are now two times larger than the original $700 billion required by then Treasury chief Hank Paulson in 2008.
The banks see it as an asset to be accessed to meet government regulations such as recapitalization programs, toxic asset purchases and global economic fears. as well as meeting the Fed’s raising of banks’ liquidity requirements and their risk parameters on lending.
While Washington wants to avoid another taxpayer bailout by having the needed funds available, critics see it as a poor use of capital.
“The resources are not going to where the market wants them but to where the government directs them, to where central bankers direct them,” scoffed Peter Schiff, chief executive of Euro Pacific Capital.
“If you think the Fed is doing the right thing,” he added, “then you believe in central government planning; you don’t believe that the free market has the right idea. You believe the Soviet Union had the right idea.”
Schiff expects the excess bank reserves at the Fed to balloon further. That’s because the Fed has promised to continue to buy bad securities from banks with taxpayer money, a binge of $85 billion a month.
But in the past couple years, banks have not put that cash into the economy — but parked it at the Fed.
“At a minimum, I would expect the reserves to be a trillion dollars higher a year from now,” Schiff said.
The rise in the excess bank reserves is spectacular. In 2008, there was only about $2 billion in reserves at the Fed before the bank bailouts. That number steadily climbed — to $267 billion in October 2008 and then closer to $1 trillion by early 2009.
Some observers say the banks are keeping money idle because there’s no good investment opportunities in this economy. But Dick Bove, a bank analyst at Rafferty Capital Markets, says that’s ridiculous.
“I can’t believe anybody can be so stupid to believe that investing money at 25 basis points is considered more preferable for the banks than investing their money in offering mortgages” — at four percent and commercial loans at three percent or so, he said.
The net effect is a disaster, says Graham Summers, chief market strategist at Phoenix Capital Research.
“The Fed has overstepped its bounds,” he said. “You can’t live in an alleged democracy and have a governing body of monetary policy above any consequences of [its] actions.”
Summers says Fed policy has created one set of rules for ordinary consumers, who can’t get loans, and another for the Fed, which has failed to properly address the core issue that almost sank the global economy in 2008 — an unprecedented credit binge.
“The banks have chosen to store vast quantities of cash rather than lending the money out,” he said.
Schiff added: “ It is a misallocation of resources.”