Banks keep up high use of new Fed lending program after spring turmoil

By Ann Saphir

(Reuters) – Months after a string of bank failures sent shockwaves through the global banking industry, U.S. banks are still heavily using an emergency lending facility set up by the Federal Reserve to help depository institutions meet withdrawal demands.

Fed loans via that new facility, the Bank Term Funding Program, ticked up to $105.7 billion as of Wednesday, Fed data released on Thursday showed, from $105.1 billion a week earlier.

Borrowings at the Fed’s discount window, by contrast, declined to $1.9 billion from $2.2 billion the prior week.

The discount window is the central bank’s longstanding mechanism through which the Fed doles out emergency loans. Banks historically avoid using it for fear of being seen as weak or troubled, but the Fed recently began pushing more banks to sign up to it.

A Fed survey of senior financial officers at nearly 100 banks released this week sheds some new light on the uptake for the new lending facility set up in March.

The ability to borrow against collateral at face value, rather than at market value as under the discount window, was seen as the new program’s strongest selling point, according to the May survey of 58 U.S.-headquartered banks and 34 U.S. branches of foreign banks.

Some 22% of domestic banks had borrowed from the program, and another 55% of banks had signed up or posted collateral to enable borrowing when needed, the survey released on Tuesday said.

Foreign banks were far less likely to use the new program, with only 3% having borrowed, and 21% taking any steps to set up for it, it found.

More than 80% of all the banks surveyed said their view of the discount window had not changed since the spring turmoil, which triggered a record $153 billion in discount-window borrowing. In the weeks following, banks gradually pared their discount window use and built up their loans from the new program.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Chris Reese and Susan Heavey)