John Parry
Reuters
July 31, 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Banks borrowed a record amount of funds from the Federal Reserve in the latest week as the year old credit crisis took a persistent toll, while the commercial paper market continued to contract, signaling tough conditions for short term borrowers.

Banks’ primary credit borrowings averaged $17.45 billion per day in the latest week, the second straight week this had hit a record and up from $16.38 billion the previous week, Fed data showed on Thursday.

“It shows there’s a shortage of liquidity in the system,” said Christopher Low, chief economist at FTN Financial in New York.

Secondary credit the Fed extended, which is usually taken out by banks in need of emergency cash, rose to $89 million in the latest week, from $34 million the week before. Although these numbers are still very small compared with primary credit, “What that tells you is that there’s an increasing number of banks that the Fed is classifying as ‘unsound’ or inadequately capitalized,” Low said.

Analysts may watch the trend of secondary credit closely, given the travails of U.S. regional and smaller banks and the likelihood that a continued decline in house prices and rise in foreclosures and bad loans will deepen the difficulties of the banking sector for many months or years.

Some analysts ascribed the overall rise in demand to use the Fed’s short term discount window borrowing facilities to a mix of factors.

“I am sure there are troubled banks trying to tap the window,” said Michael Feroli, U.S. economist with JPMorgan in New York. But he added: “more and more banks are trying to take advantage of the pure economic advantage of borrowing at a cheap rate and you are seeing a gradual fading away of the stigma of using the discount window.”

The Fed’s main discount rate is 2.25 percent.

FULL STORY

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