Karen Petrou: The Madness of a Model and its Unfounded Policy Conclusion

2024-03-04T11:50:02-05:00March 4th, 2024|The Vault|

As the pending U.S. capital rules head into their own end-game, there is finally a good deal of talk about an issue long neglected in both public discourse and banking-agency thinking:  the extent to which higher bank capital rules accelerate credit-market migration.  Simple assertions that more capital means less credit are, as I’ve noted before, simplistic.  One must consider how banks reallocate credit exposures to optimize capital impact and, still more importantly, how the credit obligations banks decide to leave behind take a hike.  Now comes a new paper the Financial Times touts concluding that, thanks to shadow banks, “we can jack up capital requirements more.”  Maybe, but not judging by this study’s design.  Even with considerable charity, it can be given no better than the “very creative” grade which kind primary-school teachers accord nice tries.

The paper in question is by Bank of International Settlements staff.  It looks empirically – or so it says – at what it calls the U.S. banking sector’s share since the 1960s of what it lugubriously calls “informationally-sensitive loans.”  It documents a lot of numbers said to demonstrate lower bank lending share, using a model founded on both erroneous data and wild leaps to conclude in a fit of circular reasoning that more nonbank lending explains why there is less bank lending.  In the study’s words, “intermediaries themselves have adjusted their business models.”  What might have led banks to decades of technological intransigence and strategic indolence is neither clearly explained nor verified.

What …