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IPFS News Link • Central Banks/Banking

To Prevent A Banking Crisis, The Fed Must Cut; But...

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It's being billed mostly as a danger for individuals and communities than for the broader economy, but for stressed lenders across America, a string of small bank failures could quite quickly spread into a larger bloodbath — especially in an economy with hot inflation and a feverish addiction to ultra-low interest rates.

Most at-risk firms are smaller banks representing assets under $10 billion, with a handful of larger regional ones. Some might be able to avoid closing by halting expansion plans or offering fewer services. Others might save themselves by merging with larger banks. But with inflation too high for the Fed to cut now, "higher for longer" interest rate policy is looking increasingly likely, and banks with high exposure to troubled commercial real estate are at particular risk of starting a domino effect of small collapses that lead to bigger ones and bleed into becoming a real estate crisis.

The Klaros report looked at troubled community banks with a large proportion of troubled commercial real estate loans, uninsured deposits, and massive losses on other loans and bonds. These banks are held hostage by higher interest rate policy, and Jerome Powell has already acknowledged that not all of the Fed's hostages will make it. Fear not, however — as he said at a recent hearing on monetary policy in the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, a few failures won't turn into an uncontrolled downward spiral:

"There will be bank failures…I think it's manageable, is the word I would use."

In other words, banks will fail, but it won't be enough to trigger a large banking crisis or blow up the broader commercial real estate sector. Powell says the Fed is "working" with these troubled smaller banks that are sitting on loans for empty office and retail buildings, but it's up to you whether you find his words reassuring:

"There are empty buildings in many major and minor cities…thousands and thousands of people who worked in those buildings are under pressure too…we're just trying to stay ahead of it on a bank-by-bank basis."

But interpreting Fed doublespeak is always a delicate endeavor. After all, if he did think 2024-2025 bank failures would be enough to start a domino effect, he wouldn't say so, or it would cause markets to panic, and the collapse could quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy.