Posts Tagged ‘reserve ratio’

Effect of write-down on bank balance sheet

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

On Friday, National Australia Bank reported a $830 million write-down on their assets. As this news article, More NAB bad debt revealed reported,

National Australia Bank’s senior management has been castigated by banking analysts after the bank released a fresh $830 million writedown of its investments in US housing mortgages.

The stock market reacted by plunging 3.5% at the time of writing. Will there be more? We will leave it to the mainstream media chatter to talk about it. Meanwhile, we will show you how a write down will affect the bank’s balance sheet. For this, we continue a simplified bank balance sheet from Introduction to banking corporate accounting:

Asset: $98.50 (Loans), $10.50 (Cash)
Liabilities: $105 (Deposits)
Equity: $4

Let’s say 2% of a bank’s non-performing assets is being written down. That means $1.97 of the asset will be gone. In that case, the asset part will look like this:

Asset: $96.53 (Loans), $10.50 (Cash)

But what about the liabilities and equity side of the balance sheet? The liabilities side remains intact because they represent the saver’s deposit. Therefore, it will be the equity side that gets deducted:

Equity: $2.03

The balance sheet now looks like this:

Asset: $96.53 (Loans), $10.50 (Cash)
Liabilities: $105 (Deposits)
Equity: $2.03

In one write-down the bank’s capital ratio gets reduced to 2.03/96.53 = 2.10%. It’s reserve ratio is still 10%. Will it get into trouble? As we explained before in Banking for dummies,

At its very core, a bank borrows money at lower interest rates and lends them out at higher interest rates. Its borrowings are its liabilities while its lendings are its assets. When you deposit your money into the bank, your money is the bank?s liability but your asset. In accounting technicalities, your money goes into the bank?s balance sheet as an asset with a corresponding liability.

Let’s say the bank pays 9.5% interest rates to its depositors (liabilities) and receives 10% interest rates from its loans (assets)- assuming interests-only payments. That means it will have to pay $105 * 9.5% = $9.975 to its depositors and receives $9.653 from its loans. In this case, the bank is in trouble.

Or let’s say banking regulations says that the capital ratio cannot go below 4%. Currently, it is at 2.10%, which means it is in trouble. It has to either sell its assets or raise cash (via equity raising) to bring the ratio up again.

No matter what, the bank’s profit will fall.

Introduction to banking corporate accounting

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Today, we will go deeper in depth on corporate accounting for banks. Without a proper understanding of this, it will impair our ability to appreciateĀ a bank’s financial position. Back in Banking for dummies, we explained that

At its very core, a bank borrows money at lower interest rates and lends them out at higher interest rates. Its borrowings are its liabilities while its lendings are its assets. When you deposit your money into the bank, your money is the bank?s liability but your asset. In accounting technicalities, your money goes into the bank?s balance sheet as an asset with a corresponding liability.

Today, we will go deeper into that.

First, we will introduce the basics of accounting:

Assets = Liabilities + Equity

So, let’s say you deposit $100 into the bank. In this case, the highly simplified bank’s balance sheet will be:

Assets: $100 (Cash)
Liabilities: $100 (Deposits)
Equity: $0

In this example, the bank is losing money because it is borrowing $100 from you which it has to pay interests on. But its $100 of cash is sitting there idle. Therefore, the bank has to lend out, say $90 at a higher interest rate than it borrows the cash from you. The balance sheet will now look like this:

Asset: $90 (Loans), $10 (Cash)
Liabilities: $100 (Deposits)
Equity: $0

Let’s say it pays 5% p.a. interest rates on deposits and receives 10% p.a. interest rates on its loans. At the end of the first year, the bank balance sheet will be (assuming interest-only payments on loans):

Asset: $90 (Loans), $19 (Cash)
Liabilities: $105 (Deposits)
Equity: $4

Now, there are 2 ratios that you need to understand. First, government regulations require that banks keep a certain ratio between equity and risky loans (in the assets) that it makes out to others. We shall call this the capital ratio. In this example, the capital ratio is 4 (Equity)/90 (Loans), which gives 4.44%. That is, its leverage is 22.5 times. There is another ratio called the reserve ratio, which is the ratio of cash and deposits. In this example, the reserve ratio is 19 (Cash)/105 (Deposits), which gives 18%.

Now, let us assume that the reserve ratio has to be, by law, a minimum of 10%. In that case, this bank has an excess reserve of 8% (see 363 tons of US dollars to Iraq?how much money will eventually be multiplied into the economy?). It can lend out an additional $8.50 to give a balance sheet of:

Asset: $98.50 (Loans), $10.50 (Cash)
Liabilities: $105 (Deposits)
Equity: $4

In this case, its reserve ratio is $10.50/$105, which gives 10%. Its capital ratio is 4/98.5, which gives 4.06% (leverage of 24.6 times).

Banking for dummies

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

One of the most lucrative business in the world is banking. This is especially true in a world of fiat money and fractional reserve banking system, where money that is backed by nothing can be created from thin air. As we have seen previously in Reserve Bank of Australia entering the landlord business, the central bank can always prevent or prempt a shorter term financial meltdown by pumping liquidity into the system (that is,’printing’ money and then followed by lending them or buying up bad debts or some other tricks- see Recipe for hyperinflation) and introducing moral hazard. But in the longer term, the people have to pay for these moral hazards via inflation.

Today, we will take an introductory look at the business of banking.

At its very core, a bank borrows money at lower interest rates and lends them out at higher interest rates. Its borrowings are its liabilities while its lendings are its assets. When you deposit your money into the bank, your money is the bank’s liability but your asset. In accounting technicalities, your money goes into the bank’s balance sheet as an asset with a corresponding liability.

Currently, today’s banking system is a fractional reserve banking system. That means banks do not have to keep all your deposit money in its ‘vault.’ Since it is unlikely that you will recall most of your deposit money at any one time, it can lend out the vast majority of your deposit money while simultaneously maintaining the full balance in your bank statements. Legally, banks have to keep a minimum ratio of deposit money in its ‘vault’ to deposit money. This ratio is the reserve ratio, which is 10% in the US. Countries like Australia do not have formal reserve ratio requirement. The implication is that if every bank customer decides to recall all their deposit money simultaneously, the bank is insolvent instantaneously. That is, there is a run on the bank.

As we said earlier, a bank profits by taking a cut between its borrowing and lending interest rates. If it keeps too much deposit money in the ‘vault,’ it is money that is not put in productive use and thus, have a negative impact on its profits. On the other hand, lending money out entails risks of debt default. Side note: With the rise of securitisation (see Collateral Debt Obligation?turning rotten meat into delicious beef steak), banks (and non-banks as well) are able to lend and re-lend money many times over, spewing out massive amount of credit into the financial system.

As you can see by now, the banking business is a balancing act of managing a portfolio of assets and liabilities. Since the banking industry is a highly regulated one, there are rules for them to follow in this balancing act. For example, there are government regulations that require banks to keep a certain ratio between risky assets (loans and bonds) and equity capital (excess of assets over its liabilities). The upcoming Basel II accord is another such example.

The global credit crisis has thrown many spanners in the works of many banks’ portfolio and by extension, the global financial system. As you can see, bad debts is causing the mayhem in banks’ portfolio (see Is this sub-prime or solvency crisis?). When the financial system realised that the price of money was too low for too long (see Prepare for asset repricing, warns Trichet, which is written back in January last year), banks (as well as non-bank) become very much risk averse and hoarded money as a result. In other words, money suddenly becomes scarce (which implies its price, the interest rates has risen).

So, as we asked before in Reserve Bank of Australia entering the landlord business, what might be the “possible repercussions if the RBA had not [got into the landord business]?” When money becomes scarce and banks (as well as non-banks) become more scared, lending seizes up and credit standards become tighter (see Rising price of money through the demise of ?shadow? banking system). For economies that are drugged up by credit (e.g. Australia, UK and the US), this can cause the economic activity to seize up. The fact that the RBA is temporarily swapping risky assets (mortgage bonds) for thin air money at a bargain price is a very telling sign. And it is not only the RBA that is doing this- it looks that other central bankers are coordinating their efforts in pumping liquidity into the financial system. At least this is the official reason. Since the RBA did not reveal who they get their mortgage bonds from, other conspiracy theorists believe that the RBA are bailing out some financial institutions (which include banks and the non-bank lenders).

For bankers, there is such a thing as free lunch.