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Monday, August 01, 2011

A "Run to the Bank"

by Calculated Risk on 8/01/2011 09:00:00 PM

Over the last couple of weeks, we saw extreme caution by businesses and consumers. CEOs were warning about a sharp slowdown. Lawyers were telling their clients to wait before signing contracts. Corporations were stockpiling cash ... and there was even a "run to the banks"!

From Francesco Guerrera at the WSJ: Washington's Haggling Left Wall Street Dangling

U.S. companies large and small also chose an extraordinary playbook, stashing cash in the corporate equivalent of mattresses—bank accounts that yield no interest ... Banks, for their part, looked at the influx of deposits with mixed feelings.

On one hand, the unexpected bounty provides them with cheap funding that can be put to work in the form of loans. At the same time, the new deposits swelled their liabilities ... One executive even suggested that if this "run to the bank" continues, lenders might consider introducing negative interest rates on deposits (savers would have to pay a fee to park the money in the bank) to keep money out.
Some of this move to cash is due to the European financial crisis (the Italy to Germany 10 year spread hit another record high today). But most of the move was probably due to the political uncertainty. A key question is how quickly consumer and business confidence returns to the already low pre-debt ceiling debate levels.