Dollar Funding and the Lending Behavior of Global Banks

by Victoria Ivashina, David S. Scharfstein & Jeremy C. Stein

Overview — A striking fact about international financial markets is the large share of dollar-denominated intermediation done by non-US banks. The large footprint of global banks in dollar funding and lending markets raises several important questions. This paper takes the presence of global banks in dollar loan markets as a given, and explores the consequences of this arrangement for cyclical variation in credit supply across countries. In particular, the authors show how shocks to the ability of a foreign bank to raise dollar funding translate into changes in its lending behavior, both in the US and in its home market. Overall, the authors identify a channel through which shocks outside the US can affect the ability of American firms to borrow. Although dollar lending by foreign banks increases the supply of credit to US firms during normal times, it may also prove to be a more fragile source of funding that transmits overseas shocks to the US economy. Key concepts include:

  • Findings show Eurozone banks adjust to strains in wholesale dollar funding markets by borrowing more in euros, but also by cutting back their dollar lending relative to euro lending.
  • Eurozone banks rely on less stable wholesale dollar funding sources to finance their dollar lending whereas a good deal of their euro lending is financed with stickier euro deposits.
  • Frictions in the foreign exchange swap market limit the extent to which Eurozone banks can use euro deposits to fund their dollar lending.
  • As swap demand from Eurozone banks rises, there is only limited arbitrage capital available to take the other side of the trade, which increases the cost of engaging in this synthetic dollar borrowing.

Author Abstract

A large share of dollar-denominated lending is done by non-U.S. banks, particularly European banks. We present a model in which such banks cut dollar lending more than euro lending in response to a shock to their credit quality. Because these banks rely on wholesale dollar funding, while raising more of their euro funding through insured retail deposits, the shock leads to a greater withdrawal of dollar funding. Banks can borrow in euros and swap into dollars to make up for the dollar shortfall, but this may lead to violations of covered interest parity (CIP) when there is limited capital to take the other side of the swap trade. In this case, synthetic dollar borrowing becomes expensive, which causes cuts in dollar lending. We test the model in the context of the Eurozone sovereign crisis, which escalated in the second half of 2011 and resulted in U.S. money-market funds sharply reducing the funding provided to European banks. Coincident with the contraction in dollar funding, there were significant violations of euro-dollar CIP. Moreover, dollar lending by Eurozone banks fell relative to their euro lending in both the U.S. and Europe; this was not the case for U.S. global banks. Finally, European banks that were more reliant on money funds experienced bigger declines in dollar lending.

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