Monday, January 12, 2015

12/1/2015: Euro Area vs US Banks and Monetary Policy: The Weakest Link

Cukierman, Alex, "Euro-Area and US Banks Behavior, and ECB-Fed Monetary Policies During the Global Financial Crisis: A Comparison" (December 2014, CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP10289: compared "…the behavior of Euro-Area (EA) banks' credit and reserves with those of US banks following respective major crisis triggers (Lehman's collapse in the US and the 2009 [Greek crisis])".

The paper shows that, "although the behavior of banks' credit following those widely observed crisis triggers is similar in the EA and in the US, the behavior of their reserves is quite different":

  • "US banks' reserves have been on an uninterrupted upward trend since Lehman's collapse"
  • EA banks reserves "fluctuated markedly in both directions". 

Per authors, "the source, this is due to differences in the liquidity injections procedures between the Eurosystem and the Fed. Those different procedures are traced, in turn, to differences in the relative importance of banking credit within the total amount of credit intermediated through banks and bond issues in the EA and the US as well as to the higher institutional aversion of the ECB to inflation relatively to that of the Fed."

Couple of charts to illustrate.

As the charts above illustrate, US banking system much more robustly links deposits and credit issuance than the European system. In plain terms, traditional banking (despite all the securitisation innovations of the past) is much better represented in the US than in Europe.

So much for the European meme of the century:

  1. The EA banking system was not a victim of the US-induced crisis, but rather an over-leveraged, less deposits-focused banking structure that operates in the economies much more reliant on bank debt than on other forms of corporate funding; and
  2. The solution to the European growth problem is not to channel more debt into the corporate sector, thus only depressing further the reserves to credit ratio line (red line) in the second chart above, but to assist deleveraging of the intermediated debt pile in the short run, increasing bank system reserves to credit ratio in the medium term (by increasing households' capacity to fund deposits) and decreasing overall share of intermediated (banks-issued) debt in the system of corporate funding in the long run.

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