Bank Loan Creation Crashes At Fastest Pace Since The Financial Crisis
As we noted last week, two potential ideas have been put forth to explain the sharp slowdown: according to Barclays analyst Jason Goldberg it is possible that companies have shifted from the loan to the bond market, and are selling more bonds to lock in cheap financing before rates rise, while not encumbering assets with issuing unsecured debt. To be sure, corporate debt issuance in January soared by 43% from a year earlier, however the number may be misleading as it comes from a low base in the year-earlier period, when global markets were in turmoil.
The other, more troubling explanation is that either political uncertainty is causing companies and banks to put off big decisions until the outlook for trade and tax policy is clearer, or that consumer demand for loans has plunged, forcing a sharp slowing in loan demand, as the underlying economy suffering a steep slowdown perhaps on the back of surging interest rates. The lending slowdown began showing up clearly just before the election last year, which also coincided with the sharp jump in interest rates.
If it is uncertainty, and should it persist, caution on the part of lenders and borrowers could become a growing drag on the economy. Alternatively, if the slowdown is rate-dependent, any future Fed rate hikes will only further pressure loan growth: 3M Libor has continued its relentless rise higher, and with every passing day makes new 8 year highs.
Finally, to revise our forecast from last week, when we said "C&I loan growth may turn negative Y/Y within a few months" it now appears the inflection point can hit within the next few weeks, and since historically US economic growth has been a function of easy bank credit, should the recent drop not be arrested, the Fed may have no choice but to reverse its tightening course in the very near future.