Thursday, September 25, 2008

Discount Window Borrowings Surge

Thursday afternoon's Federal Reserve balance sheet release was filled with painful evidence of how serious the liquidity squeeze remains for banks and dealers.  The significant increase in borrowing from the Fed would have been bigger news were it not overshadowed by the FDIC's seizure of WaMu and the fight over Paulson's $700 billion bailout package.  Primary dealers borrowed $105 billion from the Primary Dealer Credit Facility on September 24th, a shocking amount considering the stigma associated with borrowing from the discount window.  If you were curious why Goldman Sachs asked Warren Buffett for an investment or why the storied investment bank converted itself into a bank holding company, this is the answer.  Finding short-term financing is growing increasingly difficult and the Fed can't seem to create new lending facilities fast enough to keep up with demand for dollars.  Banks borrowed $72 billion from the new asset-backed commercial paper money market or mutual fund liquidity facility, a non-recourse loan facility offered to US depository institutions and bank holding companies to finance purchases of ABCP from money market funds.  The Fed is also accepting equities through the discount window, which I'm certain indicates that the financial apocalypse is upon us.  The loan to AIG has increased from $28 to $44 billion within a week.  I suppose AIG is still determined to pay off the loan and remain a non-government owned company, but it does not appear to be moving in the right direction.  The good news is, we still haven't lost any money on the Bear Stearns loan, although the last time the asset was valued was June 30th.  I'm awaiting the quarterly update and I'm assuming it is not good.
If the money markets don't thaw soon, and there is very little reason to believe that they will after WaMu's failure and the stall-out of the Paulson plan, the Fed will likely need another loan from the Treasury so it can increase its lending to the dealer community.  This is commonly known as running the printing press in a third world nation.  In the US, it's just Bernanke and Paulson doing what they do best; juicing up Wall Street so it can live to fight another day.  The Financial Times is reporting that Morgan Stanley lost close to a third of the assets in its prime brokerage last week (hundreds of billions of dollars) as hedge funds fled to rival banks.  The rumor circulated all last week, but was only published as news in a major financial publication for the first time tonight.  This is yet another unintended consequence of Lehman's failure.  Hedge fund clients are concerned that if Morgan fails due to the severe liquidity squeeze, they will wind up like Lehman's clients; unable to access their assets in a wildly fluctuating market.  Needless to say, concerns about the future of Morgan will likely hurt the market tomorrow.  At least this time, they won't blame the shorts.     

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