Rug pulled away on UK bank funding
Britain’s banks may have borrowed over 200 billion pounds from the Bank of England, four times the amount they were expected to take under an emergency liquidity scheme. It leaves them facing a sharp funding strain next month when the rug gets pulled away.
Alastair Ryan, analyst at UBS, reckons banks have taken over 200 billion pounds under the BoE’s Special Liquidity Scheme since it was offered in April. They had been expected to borrow about 50 billion pounds, although estimates were lifted to near 100 billion as wholesale markets stayed closed. The scheme allows banks to exchange hard-to-trade mortgage assets for government bills.
The problem is the BoE isn’t planning to extend the funding beyond a Oct. 20 deadline . If the borrowing from UK banks has been as high as Ryan estimates, it will have eased a short-term problem but shows how much the liquidity is needed. It also leaves even more medium and long-term funding that the banks will need to replace at some point.
European and U.S. central banks aren’t closing their funding windows. By shutting its window the BoE is pinning its hopes on securitisation markets re-opening, but that seems unlikely soon and could force banks to further shrink their mortgage books at a tough time for them and the housing market.
As the deadline looms, UK regulators, criticised for their handling of Northern Rock at the start of the credit crunch, will face mounting pressure to extend the scheme as confidence among UK banks clearly isn’t back yet.