Did someone mention US banks are insolvent … https://t.co/BP1ndWiBvX
— Richard Field (@tyillc) November 11, 2023
“…Moody’s estimated last month that US financial institutions had racked up $650 billion worth of paper losses on their portfolios by September 30 — up 15% from June 30. The ratings agency’s data still doesn’t account for a hellish October where the longer-term collapse in bond prices spiraled into one of the worst routs in market history. These “losses” are not the same as debt, however, which describes actual borrowings that need to be repaid. Bank of America is the big lender worst affected by the crash in bond prices, having disclosed a potential $130 billion hole in its balance sheet last month. The other “Big Four” banks — Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo — have also racked up unrealized losses in the tens of billions, according to their second- and third-quarter earnings reports…”
US 30y yield spiked higher after a sale of $24 billion in bonds received far less demand from investors than the govt is used to. Primary dealers, big banks who are obligated to finance whatever portion of a Treasury auction isn't purchased by other investors, bought nearly a… pic.twitter.com/CAK3FvsbLH
— Holger Zschaepitz (@Schuldensuehner) November 9, 2023
HELD to MATURITY
US Banks Have $620 Billion of Unrealized Losses on Their Books
by Noah Buhayar, Jennifer Surane, Andre Tartar, Raeedah Wahid, Dean Halford and Hayley Warren, with assistance from Tom Contiliano and Mathieu Benhamou, edited by Dan Wilchins, Chloe Whiteaker and David Papadopoulos / March 31, 2023
“The investment losses that helped take down Silicon Valley Bank are a problem, to one degree or another, across the US financial system. In total, the industry ended last year with $620 billion of unrealized losses on its books from investments in low-yielding bonds. For most banks, the issue is manageable. Bonds held in investment books represented less than a quarter of the banking system’s $23.6 trillion of assets in December, and unlike SVB, lenders usually have a wide array of depositors who are unlikely to all need money around the same time. For the biggest banks, the risks are even smaller. They are perceived as too big to fail.
During the pandemic, banks had a massive inflow of new deposits arising from the various stimulus programs, so they did the easiest thing with the money which was buy long-term bonds.
Since interest rates have exploded higher, those bond portfolio values have collapsed, leaving… pic.twitter.com/9X6EqHdxGU
— Wall Street Silver (@WallStreetSilv) November 24, 2023
What’s more, the recent rally in the Treasury bond market — sparked, ironically, by the jitters about the health of the banking industry — is helping to shrink the $620 billion of paper losses. (In the coming weeks, banks will start to post first-quarter data.) And yet as depositors keep gradually withdrawing their money and shifting it into money market funds and other investments, banks are facing a squeeze. They’re being pressed to pay more for funding while their revenue is limited by the investments they made in low-yielding bonds during the pandemic. That in turn could curb their ability to lend to consumers and businesses, slowing the economy. “They’re paying more for deposits, and their earnings on bonds are fixed,” said Stan August, a retired bank examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and a former bond analyst at Bank of America. “That’s where the squeeze is.”
— Kevin Malone (@Malone_Wealth) November 8, 2023
When the pandemic hit, and the Federal Reserve pushed down rates once again by pumping unprecedented amounts of cash into the economy, many banks loaded up on long-term government and mortgage-backed bonds. There were some Treasury notes that promised to pay annual interest of just 0.6% over 10 years. Then inflation surged and the Fed started urgently driving up interest rates. The value of those bonds plunged, because who would want to buy an old bond paying 0.6% interest when new ones were suddenly paying more than 3%? Losses on bonds are a risk whenever rates go up, but banks’ holdings were bigger than usual in 2022. All that cash the Fed and the government pushed into the economy quickly found its way into the banking system, giving lenders trillions of dollars to invest. SVB’s domestic deposits, for instance, rose more than 150% from the end of March 2020 through the end of 2022. Rising deposits on their own don’t necessarily represent a problem for banks. For SVB, they spelled trouble in part because its clients tended to keep large balances at the bank as a condition for receiving services like lines of credit. That translated to a high percentage of customers’ deposits being bigger than US deposit insurance limits. Clients with high balances at a bank are often skittish about the safety of their funds and more likely to withdraw money fast at signs of trouble. There were at least three data points for SVB that worried depositors: the speed at which the bank’s deposits had grown, the high percentage of uninsured deposits it had, and the magnitude of losses relative to its equity. These factors helped create a perfect storm.
This doesn't even account for the nuclear bomb of unrealized losses. I wonder if $138 billion has a material impact on their stocks and bonds? https://t.co/D9yAiQhC8k
— Agent 86 (@abearze34) November 11, 2023
But even for banks that dodge the storm, bond losses are a problem. A large part of banks’ investment portfolios use an accounting method called “held to maturity” that ensures the firms don’t have to record any losses, or any hits to their balance sheets, from the declining value of their bonds. But they also have to hold onto the bonds until they mature. As banks’ deposits started to grow during the pandemic, they initially plowed more money into bonds using a method of accounting called “available for sale.” For these securities, changes in the value of the bonds would affect their balance sheets but not their income statements. That accounting method can force banks to boost their capital levels, though, if their losses get too high. In 2021, a growing group of banks believed the Fed would soon begin raising interest rates and began switching to counting more of their bonds as held-to-maturity. The biggest banks added about $1.7 trillion of the bonds to their books over the two years ended in December. In some cases, they switched bonds over from one accounting treatment to the other. In other cases, they just stopped buying new available-for-sale securities and only added to their held-to-maturity books.
Schwab’s Unrealized Bond Losses Widened to $19.4 Billion. Why Investors Should Care. https://t.co/jjUL8yysz3
— Barron's (@barronsonline) November 10, 2023
Initially it worked pretty well. Profits ballooned. The US banking system’s return on equity, a measure of profitability, averaged 12.2% in 2021, the highest since 2006. But now that inflation and rate hikes have come, banks have suddenly been finding themselves pressured from two sides. Higher interest rates forced banks to pay more money to win deposits, with average one-year CD rates rising to about 2.7% by March, according to DepositAccounts, from 0.35% in May 2022. Consumers and companies have been taking more of their money out of banks and investing it in assets like government bonds. Deposits in commercial banks fell last year for the first time since 1948, according to the FDIC. The worst pain here is for community and regional banks, which lost more than $100 billion of deposits in the week ended March 15, while the biggest banks have been luring funds. Meanwhile, the value of banks’ bond holdings plunged on paper too. The $620 billion of unrealized losses in the system at the end of 2022 were for available-for-sale and held-to-maturity securities. The combination of surging interest rates, high investment losses and heavy deposit outflows is new for most investors and executives in the banking industry. To many, this feels like uncharted territory. “I have covered this industry for 20 years plus and I have never seen anything like this,” said Ania Aldrich, an investment principal at Cambiar Investors. “In all the stress testing we have done for at least the largest banks have never stressed for anything like this.”
The unrealized losses are getting realized at some banks, with more of them selling chunks of their underwater bond portfolios at a loss. https://t.co/xv7Z3gKQ2I
— American Banker (@AmerBanker) November 8, 2023
Banks that declined to comment: Bank of America, First Republic Bank, JPMorgan Chase Bank, Truist Bank, US Bank, Valley National Bank and Wells Fargo Bank
Banks that didn’t respond to requests for comment or did not have immediate comment when reached: Associated Bank, City National Bank, Manufacturers & Traders Trust Co., Santander Bank, Signature Bank, Simmons Bank, State Street Bank & Trust Co., UBS Bank USA and Webster Bank”