Recent Posts

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Banks, Securities Markets, And Risk

Large bank corporations now tend to have both traditional lending divisions as well as securities market divisions. This was not always the case; regulators used to keep financial firms locked to specialisations — this was referred to as “the pillar system” in Canada. However, ongoing deregulation eroded the pillars — I discuss part of the economic logic below. It is possible to find banks that stick to a traditional loan/deposit structure (particularly in the United States, with a highly fragmented banking system), but those banks tend to be smaller.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Yield Curve Inversions And Recessions

This article continues the previous discussion of bank net interest margins. In it, I discussed how changes in the yield curve changed the net interest margin (NIM) for banks. This showed up historically — when bank balance sheets were shattered by the combination of holding long-dated mortgages with low fixed coupons versus having a sky-high short-term rate imposed by deranged Monetarists. In this article, I address a common macroeconomic story: yield curve inversions cause recessions by the alleged effect on NIM. As a spoiler, I do not think that story holds water in “modern” banking systems.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

The Yield Curve And Bank Net Interest Margins

One of the topics that comes up whenever government bond curves re-price is the relationship between the yield curve and bank net interest margins (NIM). This then morphs into a second question: does a yield curve inversion cause a recession by the (alleged) effect of the yield curve on bank interest margins, reducing the willingness of banks to lend?

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Crypto Failures Versus Bank Failures

The ongoing collapse in cryptocurrency exchanges is attracting attention and schadenfreude. As an uninterested outside observer, all I can say is that weak exchanges are being culled, whether any “strong” ones will be left remains to be determined. My guess is that unless regulators step in and shutter them, inflows from elsewhere should be able to prop up some exchanges. The problem for crypto bulls is that the ongoing liquidation process will put coin prices under pressure.

Saturday, November 12, 2022


I was invited onto the MMT Podcast with Patricia Pino and Christian Reilly (thanks!): “What Is A Bond Vigilante And How Do We Get Rid Of Them?” A discussion of some of the issues raised by the wackiness in the U.K. bond market. Obviously not a current event, but a discussion of what we can learn.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Primer: Bank Capital

Bank capital is the buffer on a bank’s balance sheet that allows it to absorb losses, particularly credit losses. Although there is a great deal of excitement about bank liquidity — bank runs, just like in “It’s a Wonderful Life”! — but the main danger is the capital buffer being wiped out (insolvency). A bank run might feature at the end of the bank’s lifetime (quite often, regulators just step in), but the trigger is the insolvency. This article discusses bank capital at a high level, from a macroeconomic viewpoint.