United States Of America

Why looming US crisis could be worse than in 2008

by Ekaterina Blinova, Sputnik News

Troubles engulfing three US banks and one prominent European lender have triggered recession fears as corporate bond buyers have got cold feet, with banks expected to tighten lending terms and the Federal Reserve proceeding with aggressive hikes.
The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), as well as the banks Signature and Silvergate was followed by a Credit Suisse crisis, seeing other bank stocks tank and concerns over the stability of the Western banking system growing.

“The failure of the three US banks is not in themselves a threat to the financial system,” Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, an American economist and author who was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration and associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, told Sputnik. “Two of the banks were involved with crypto-currencies, which are too volatile for a bank’s balance sheet to remain solvent. The other bank, Silicon Valley Bank, was pushed into insolvency by the Federal Reserve’s policy of raising interest rates. If this policy continues more banks will be pushed into insolvency, and there will be a banking crisis.”

“The reason the Federal Reserve’s policy is pushing banks into insolvency is that during the decade of low interest rates, the financial assets acquired by banks that are their assets, such as bonds, have lower interest rates than current interest rates. When interest rates rise, existing financial assets with lower interest rates fall in value, thus reducing the asset side of banks’ balance sheets, but the liabilities side does not decline,” the US economist continued.
As a result, banks find themselves insolvent or approaching insolvency, the former Treasury official explained. Once depositors notice that, they rush to withdraw their funds, forcing the banks to sell their depreciated assets in order to pay depositors. Eventually, the sale of the banks’ assets further reduces their value, and the banks fail.

“To avoid this panic, the Federal Reserve has announced that the central bank will supply the necessary cash so that all banks can meet withdrawal demands, and the Treasury has announced that all deposits, regardless of size, are insured against bank failure,” Dr. Roberts underscored. “These two policies should suffice to prevent a general run on the banks.”

Is US Heading to Recession?

The US mainstream media largely lauded the Biden administration’s response to the collapse of the SVB, describing “the 72-hour scramble to save the United States from a banking crisis.”
At the same time, however, the US press is warning that the stress in the financial system may have powerful effects on growth.

“We are far from a recession,” Ayse Kabukcuoglu Dur, assistant professor of economics at Poole College of Management, NC State University, asserted to Sputnik. “The collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) raised questions about the vulnerability of the banking system but 2023 is different from 2008 thanks to the post-2008 financial reforms. The financial system has been more strictly monitored and regulated compared to the pre-2008 period.”

However, J.P. Morgan warned on Wednesday that tighter monetary policy could push the US into recession later this year. “A very rough estimate is that slower loan growth by mid-size banks could subtract a half to a full percentage-point off the level of GDP over the next year or two,” the financial institution wrote in its statement.
Investors appear to be sharing the Wall Street heavyweights’ concerns: earlier this week, the markets saw plummeting bond yields, tanking oil and stock prices, and a sharp jump in volatility. US media outlets assume that the potentiality of curtailed lending, loss of appetite for corporate bonds among buyers, and raising borrowing costs due to the Federal Reserve’s aggressive rate hikes could put the brakes on growth and open the door to a recession.
Furthermore, judging from the recession of 2001 and global financial crisis of 2008, every time when confidence in the financial system has taken an abrupt downturn, unemployment has tended to go up sharply. Indeed, investors and lenders typically started to withdraw to safe havens, consumers reduced spending, and companies began cutting employees.
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