Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bang Up Job Guys

You really have got to hand it to the financial press. After stoking the fires of risk fueled housing and equity bull markets they have now fully transitioned into fanning the flames of widespread panic.

Its a wonder that more banks don't tap the discount window after the confidence inspiring conniption that virtually every financial pundit seemed to go through yesterday.

Was there a major crisis at Bear, of course. By no means am I suggesting anything less. However, the term "FED Bailout!!!" was splashed across every TV and computer screen that I saw, when the reality was somewhat more prosaic.

About three-quarters of the way down this Wall Street Journal article the author admits that


technically the Fed still hasn't lent directly to investment
bank

because

the New York Federal Reserve Bank had agreed that it would provide financing to Bear Stearns via J.P. Morgan Chase. J.P. Morgan Chase was used as a conduit because, as a commercial bank, it already has access to the Fed's discount window

So basically, as I see it, the Fed encouraged JP Morgan to use the discount window essentially as intended - to stem a bank run.

Now, it wasn't a bank that was being run but in our modern financial system the Fed understands that intermediation extends far beyond traditional banking institutions. Yet, the Fed still went through a member bank to conduct this operation so as to avoid mudding the waters as much as possible.

As far as I can tell the big innovation was that Fed guaranteed Morgan against losses, which given the time frame available seems not only prudent but reasonable.

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