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- For Depository Institutions
- For Bank Examiners
- For the General Public
Please Note: The Federal Reserve Board announced changes to the terms of discount window lending programs in a press release dated February 18, 2010. Effective March 18, 2010, the Federal Reserve reduced the maximum maturity of primary credit loans from 28 days to overnight. Effective February 19, 2010, the spread of the primary credit rate over the FOMC's target federal funds rate increased to 50 basis points, up from 25. The Federal Reserve will assess over time whether further increases in the spread are appropriate in view of experience with the 1/2 percentage point spread.
The Federal Reserve's Discount Window serves many purposes for depository institutions and the economy:
- Acts as a safety valve in relieving pressures in reserve markets
- Helps to relieve liquidity strains in individual depository institutions or the banking system as a whole
- Helps to assure the basic stability of the payments system
Effective January 9, 2003, the Federal Reserve introduced two new Discount Window programs:
The "Primary Credit" program is now the principal safety valve for ensuring adequate liquidity in the banking system; it is a backup source of short-term funds for sound depository institutions.
Priced slightly higher, "Secondary Credit" is available to depository institutions not eligible for primary credit.
|Highlights of the New Program:|
|Priced at a rate above the FOMC’s target for the federal funds rate, primary credit is available to depository institutions in sound overall condition to meet short-term, backup funding needs. Normally, primary credit will be granted on a “no-questions-asked,” minimally administered basis. There are no restrictions on borrowers’ use of primary credit.
|Priced slightly higher, secondary credit is available to depository institutions not eligible for primary credit. Secondary credit entails a higher level of administration.
Adjustment and extended credit are no longer offered, the seasonal credit program remains unchanged.
Terms & Features
To access the Discount Window, eligible depository institutions first must execute the necessary documentation and pledge collateral to the Federal Reserve.
|Feature||Primary Credit||Secondary Credit|
|Rate||Above the FOMC's target for the federal funds rate.||Primary credit rate plus 50 basis points.|
|Term||Overnight.||Short-term, usually overnight. Can be extended for a longer term if such credit would facilitate a timely return to reliance on market funding or an orderly resolution of a failing institution, subject to statutory requirements (FDICIA restrictions).|
|Eligibility||Depository institutions in generally sound financial condition; same as eligibility for daylight credit.||Depository institutions that do not qualify for primary credit.|
|Use||Generally no restrictions. May be used to fund sales of federal funds.||As a backup source of funding on a very short-term basis, or to facilitate an orderly resolution of serious financial difficulties.|
|Administration||Ordinarily no questions asked.||Reserve Banks will collect information necessary to confirm that borrowing is consistent with regulatory requirements.|
Depository institutions to which the law grants access to the Discount Window and which the Federal Reserve deems generally sound are eligible to obtain primary credit. Reserve Banks determine eligibility on an ongoing basis using supervisory ratings and capitalization data; supplementary information, when available, may also be used.
(CAMELS or equivalent)
|Capital Designation||Generally Eligible For|
|1, 2, or 3||Adequately or well capitalized||Primary Credit|
|4 or 5||Any||Secondary Credit|
|Any||Less than Adequately Capitalized||Secondary Credit|
2. For Depository Institutions
The new Discount Window lending programs represent an additional backup funding option for eligible institutions seeking to supplement their funding sources. For many depository institutions, particularly those with more limited access to wholesale funding markets, the new lending programs will also eliminate the need to bid for funds in the marketplace when available funds are tight.
Certainly the high cost of primary credit, initially 100 basis points above the target federal funds rate, will ration its use. Nonetheless, the minimal administration of the new program makes it a convenient and ready source of backup funding for qualifying institutions faced with situations such as an unexpected increase in loan demand, loss of deposits, or reserve account shortfall.
Common Borrowing Situations
The new Discount Window programs offer an enhanced opportunity for eligible depository institutions seeking an efficient solution to meet unexpected, short-term funding needs.
|Likely Situations for Borrowing Primary Credit:|
Generally, there are no restrictions on borrowers’ use of primary credit. Here are some examples of common borrowing situations:
- Tight money markets or undue market volatility
- Preventing an overnight overdraft
- Meeting a need for backup funding, including a short-term liquidity demand that may arise from unexpected deposit withdrawals or a spike in loan demand
- Arbitrage opportunities
|Appropriate Situations for Borrowing Secondary Credit:|
Secondary credit is subject to a higher level of lending administration than primary credit. Examples of appropriate uses of secondary credit include:
- Tight money markets or undue market volatility
- Addressing an overnight overdraft
- Meeting a need for backup funding, including a short-term liquidity demand
- Inability to obtain funding from normal sources
- To assist the primary regulator in prompt closure of a troubled institution
|Inappropriate Situations for Borrowing Secondary Credit:|
- Arbitrage opportunities
- To facilitate balance sheet expansion
3. For Bank Examiners
The primary credit program marks a fundamental shift - from administration to pricing - in the Federal Reserve's approach to Discount Window lending. Notably, eligible depository institutions may obtain short-term primary credit without exhausting or even seeking funds from alternative sources. Minimal administration of and restrictions on the use of primary credit will make it a more reliable backup funding source than was adjustment credit. Being prepared to borrow primary credit — like access to any other backup liquidity facility — enhances an institution's liquidity.
For examiners, the Federal Reserve's new primary credit program requires a shift in thinking about the role the Discount Window can play in depository institutions' liquidity management and contingency funding arrangements. The primary credit program may play a larger role in generally sound institutions' plans than did adjustment credit. Bank examiners should view occasional use of primary credit as appropriate and unexceptional. Please see the Interagency Advisory on the Use of the Federal Reserve's Primary Credit Program in Effective Liquidity Management for more information.
4. For the General Public
The Discount Window functions as a safety valve in relieving pressures in reserve markets; extensions of credit can help relieve liquidity strains in a depository institution and in the banking system as a whole. By supplying liquidity during times of systemic stress, the Discount Window also helps to assure the basic stability of the payments system more generally.
When the Federal Reserve System was established in 1913, lending reserve funds through the Discount Window was intended as the principal instrument of central banking operations. Although the Discount Window was long ago superseded by open market operations as the most important tool of monetary policy, it still plays a complementary role.
Banks and other depository institutions traditionally have borrowed from the Federal Reserve's Discount Window when they face a temporary, unexpected, need for funds. Historically, the Federal Reserve lent "adjustment credit" to meet such needs.
Reserve Banks relied on two basic principles in administering adjustment credit:
- Borrowers had to have an appropriate reason for seeking a Discount Window loan
- Borrowers had to fully use other reasonable available sources of funds before turning to the Discount Window
The primary credit program, in contrast, minimizes the administration of and restrictions on the use of Discount Window credit. Moreover, only generally sound institutions are eligible to borrow primary credit, so borrowing primary credit should not be seen a sign of financial weakness. Thus, the primary credit program should reduce depository institutions' reluctance to borrow, thereby making the Discount Window a more effective policy instrument.