Fed Rate Policies Aid Foreign Banks
Lenders Pocket a Spread by Borrowing Cheaply, Parking Funds at Central Bank
Banks headquartered outside the U.S. have been unlikely beneficiaries of the Federal Reserve's interest-rate policies, and they are likely to keep profiting as the Fed changes the way it controls borrowing costs.
Foreign firms have received nearly half of both the $4.7 billion in interest the Fed paid banks so far this year for the money, called reserves, they deposit at the U.S. central bank, and the $5.1 billion it paid last year, according to an analysis of Fed data by The Wall Street Journal. Those lenders control only about 17% of all bank assets in the U.S.
Moreover, the Fed's plans for raising interest rates make it likely banks will see those payments grow in coming years.
Though small in relation to their overall revenues, interest payments from the Fed have been a source of virtually risk-free returns for banks including Deutsche Bank AG, UBS AG, Bank of China Ltd. and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, according to bank regulatory filings. U.S. banks including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Well Fargo & Co. and Bank of America Corp. are also big recipients of Fed interest payments, according to the filings.
"It is a small transfer from U.S. taxpayers to foreign taxpayers," said Joseph Gagnon, a former Fed economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The transfer, he added, was a side effect of Fed policy, not a goal.