In a recent blog post, we showed that the eight member banks of the Forum increased total credit provision to the economy by $435 billion from the fourth quarter of 2019 through the third quarter of 2020. On February 19th, the Federal Reserve released fourth quarter 2020 data for our eight member banks. In this post, we use these new data to show that total credit provision of Forum members increased by $785 billion during 2020. These data further underscore how Forum members are actively supporting the economy during the pandemic. Furthermore, we also show that all areas of consumer lending increased during 2020, except credit card lending, reflecting the ability of Forum members to serve households, whether they desire to act as spenders or savers.
Large Bank Balance Sheets: An Update
In Table 1, the components of the aggregate Forum members’ balance sheet are compared over the course of 2020 to provide a comprehensive view of the total credit provision Forum members have supplied during the pandemic.
Total Credit Provision
Total credit provision by Forum Member banks increased by $785 billion in 2020, an increase largely driven by a significant ($634 billion) increase in securities, roughly $350 billion of which are comprised of U.S. Treasury Securities. Moreover, while loans were down a touch during 2020, the size of the decline, $13 billion, is small relative to the overall balance sheet size of Forum members.
Consumer Lending During the Pandemic
In order to understand why overall lending has declined during the pandemic, we examine Forum members’ consumer lending over the past year in Table 2. Consumer lending consists of four parts: 1) lending through credit cards, 2) other revolving credit plans not involving a credit card, 3) automobile loans, and 4) other consumer loans such as loans for household appliances, student loans, and medical expenses.
All sources of consumer lending were higher at the end of 2020 than they were at the end of 2019 except credit card lending. In our previous post on large bank credit provision during the pandemic, we examined poll data showing that most recipients of stimulus checks either saved the relief funds or used them to pay down debt, a finding consistent with declining demand for credit card borrowing. Relatedly, recent research from Federal Reserve economists also point to the decline in credit card borrowing as a sign of reduced credit demand from households.
The most recent data clearly show that Forum members are playing a vital role in providing credit to the U.S. economy. The data show that over the course of 2020, Forum members increased credit provision by $785 billion while also increasing all forms of consumer lending except credit card lending. This further demonstrates that Forum members continue to be a source of strength and stability to the economy as a whole.