OECD Journal: Financial Market Trends

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The articles in Financial Market Trends focus on trends, structural issues and developments in financial markets and the financial sector.


Bank lending puzzles

Business models and the responsiveness to policy

Banks are still dealing with historic losses buried in their balance sheets. As a result, the US economy is picking up only modestly and Europe is sinking further into recession, despite unprecedented low interest rates and policies to compress the term premium. The aim of this study is to explore the business activities of banks, with a special focus on their lending behaviour, and its responsiveness to unconventional monetary policy. The paper shows that deleveraging has been mainly via mark-to-market assets falling in value, and policy is now serving to reflate these assets without a strong impact on lending. A panel regression study shows that GSIFI banks are least responsive to policy. Non-GSIFI banks respond to the lending rate spread to cash rates, the spread between lending rates and the alternative investment in government bonds, and the distance-to-default (the banks solvency). The paper shows that better lending in the USA is a result of safer banks and a better spread to government bonds – yields on the latter are too attractive relative to lending rates in Europe. Finally, the paper comments on the problem of using cyclical tools to address structural problems in banks, and suggests which alternative policies would better facilitate a financial system more aligned with lending, trust and stability and less towards high-risk activities and leverage via complex products.

JEL Classification: E50, E51, E52, E58, G20, G21, G24, G28.

Keywords: Bank Lending, Bank business model, deleveraging, structural policy, unconventional monetary policy, distance to default, spreads, bank separation, GSIFI.


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