Recently, you may have seen the headlines regarding Silicon Valley Bank collapse, creating implications for the financial system as a whole. If you looked at the performance of the financial sector over the past week or two you’d be excused for feeling a bit of panic. The deterioration in share prices slowly accelerated into a crushing run on two banks in two days. Given the way markets have been fluctuating over the past 18 months and the pressure the Fed has been putting on the market, we can understand how some people might jump to conclusions and think the financial system is finally cracking under the pressure of rate hikes and inflation.
We’re going to dive into this deeper, but lets start this reaction piece off by pressing pause on any panic you might be feeling.
Why Is The Financial Sector Under Pressure with Silicon Valley Bank Collapse
The financial sector has been under pressure as rate hike expectations have come back into focus. While we’ve had plenty of speculation around rate hikes over the past 18 months, the past week or two has seen the 2s – 10s spread expand rapidly. The 2s-10s spread is the gap between 2 year treasury yields and 10 year treasury yields. In normal markets conditions, longer maturity yields are typically higher than short maturity yields – governments or companies who issue debt have to pay more for investors to feel comfortable locking their money up for longer periods of time. However, in the current environment where rapid rate hikes are expected to be temporary, the yield of treasury bonds with shorter maturities is higher than the yield on treasuries with longer maturities.
This spread is important because the spread between long term and short term maturities can have a significant impact on bank profitability. Banks fundamentally operate in the business of borrowing short term money and lending it out to people for longer term projects. The most extreme example taking a customer deposit for say, $500,000, and then turning around and giving another customer a loan for $500,000. The bank has borrowed short term money from the depositor, and lent it out for much longer – for the sake of this example, lets say 10 years. The interest they make on the 10 year loan is used to pay for the bank’s operational costs, drive value for bank shareholders, and of course, pay the customer some interest on their savings account.
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