The Federal Reserve Board on Wednesday released the results of its annual bank stress test, which demonstrates that large banks are well positioned to weather a severe recession and continue to lend to households and businesses even during a severe recession.
“Today’s results confirm that the banking system remains strong and resilient,” Vice Chair for Supervision Michael S. Barr said. “At the same time, this stress test is only one way to measure that strength. We should remain humble about how risks can arise and continue our work to ensure that banks are resilient to a range of economic scenarios, market shocks, and other stresses.”
The Board’s stress test is one tool to help ensure that large banks can support the economy during economic downturns. The test evaluates the resilience of large banks by estimating their capital levels, losses, revenue and expenses under a single hypothetical recession and financial market shock, using banks’ data as of the end of last year.
All 23 banks tested remained above their minimum capital requirements during the hypothetical recession, despite total projected losses of $541 billion. Under stress, the aggregate common equity risk-based capital ratio—which provides a cushion against losses—is projected to decline by 2.3 percentage points to a minimum of 10.1 percent.
This year’s stress test includes a severe global recession with a 40 percent decline in commercial real estate prices, a substantial increase in office vacancies, and a 38 percent decline in house prices. The unemployment rate rises by 6.4 percentage points to a peak of 10 percent and economic output declines commensurately.
The test’s focus on commercial real estate shows that while large banks would experience heavy losses in the hypothetical scenario, they would still be able to continue lending. The banks in this year’s test hold roughly 20 percent of the office and downtown commercial real estate loans held by banks. The large projected decline in commercial real estate prices, combined with the substantial increase in office vacancies, contributes to projected loss rates on office properties that are roughly triple the levels reached during the 2008 financial crisis.
The $541 billion in total projected losses includes over $100 billion in losses from commercial real estate and residential mortgages, and $120 billion in credit card losses, both higher than the losses projected in last year’s test. The aggregate 2.3 percentage point decline in capital is slightly less than the 2.7 percentage point decline from last year’s test but is comparable to declines projected from the stress test in recent years. The disclosure document includes additional information about losses, including firm-specific results and figures.
For the first time, the Board conducted an exploratory market shock on the trading books of the largest banks, testing them against greater inflationary pressures and rising interest rates. This exploratory market shock will not contribute to banks’ capital requirements but was used to further understand the risks with their trading activities and to assess the potential for testing banks against multiple scenarios in the future. The results showed that the largest banks’ trading books were resilient to the rising rate environment tested.
The individual results from the stress test factor directly into a bank’s capital requirements, mandating each bank to hold enough capital to survive a severe recession and financial market shock. If a bank does not stay above its capital requirements, it is subject to automatic restrictions on capital distributions and discretionary bonus payments.
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