U.S. regulators say banking system ‘sound and resilient’

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The multi-regulator U.S. Financial Stability Oversight Council agreed on Friday that the U.S. banking system remains “sound and resilient” despite stress on some institutions, the U.S. Treasury said in its latest statement to calm jittery markets and bank depositors.

In a readout of a closed meeting chaired by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the department said that FSOC participants heard a presentation on market developments from the staff of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“The Council discussed current conditions in the banking sector and noted that while some institutions have come under stress, the U.S. banking system remains sound and resilient,” the Treasury said in a statement.

The videoconference meeting came as markets continued to seesaw amid concerns that a two-week-old banking crisis sparked by the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank could worsen, spreading more runs on smaller banks

The body of financial regulators, led by Yellen and including the heads of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulatory agencies, last met on March 12.

That was the same day that the FDIC, Fed and Treasury announced emergency actions to backstop all deposits in the two failed banks and create a new Fed lending facility to boost liquidity for all banks.

Two prominent House of Representatives Republicans on Friday demanded that Yellen provide them with additional information about the March 12 meeting, including unredacted minutes, votes, details on timing and bank stress test results.

“The events that have transpired over the last 12 days related to both Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, the ensuing market instability, and your role raise a number of questions for policymakers,” wrote Representatives Bill Huizenga and Andy Barr who chair House Financial Services subcommittees, in a letter to Yellen.

They added that the basis of the Treasury, Fed and FDIC determinations in the SVB and Signature cases “are of particular importance.”

The Friday FSOC meeting came as global banking contagion fears again caused European bank stocks to fall sharply, with Deutsche Bank and UBS knocked by worries that regulators and central banks have not yet contained the worst shock to the sector since the 2008 global financial crisis.

But on Wall Street, shares recovered from an earlier sell-off as three Federal Reserve bank presidents said in separate remarks that there was no indication that financial stress was worsening this week, allowing them to raise interest rates by a quarter percentage point.

Yellen again sought to calm fears of further bank deposit runs on Thursday, telling U.S. lawmakers that she was prepared to repeat actions taken in the Silicon Valley and Signature Bank failures to safeguard uninsured bank deposits if failures threatened more deposit runs.

Those actions to invoke “systemic risk exceptions” were taken by Yellen, President Joe Biden, the FDIC, and the Fed, which supervised Silicon Valley and Signature.

(Reporting by David Lawder; additional reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Diane Craft and Marguerita Choy)