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Fed Throws Itself A Very Fed-Like Birthday Party

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Before the Federal Open Market Committee began pretending to kick around the idea that maybe it might actually begin to cut its bond buys now, rather than, say, in the future, Ben Bernanke and co. threw themselves a little birthday party featuring the Beard's only two surviving predecessors, to commemorate the signing of the bill that made all of the ink spilled about tapering stimulus programs possible.

There were no balloons or party hats but if you’re a Fed watcher, there was no bigger deal this week than the ceremony on Monday marking the centennial of the Federal Reserve. The audience of roughly 80 people in the Fed’s boardroom on Constitution Avenue in Washington was the biggest gathering of current and former senior Fed officials in the bank’s history, according to the master of ceremonies, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker.

The most interesting part of the afternoon ceremony, which has been posted on YouTube, was what former Fed chairmen Paul Volcker (1979-1987) and Alan Greenspan (1987-2006) and current Chairman Ben Bernanke (2006-present) had to say about each other….

The birthday party was a few days early because it wasn’t until Dec. 23, 1913, that President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act. Presumably the Fed didn’t want to wait until nearly Christmas Eve to celebrate.

Volcker, whose words during the financial crisis did not require much parsing to be read as an attack on Bernanke's policies, was magnanimous in his remarks, perhaps because he was celebrating his namesake rule's first scalp. Or that said namesake rule has made him, and not the former "rock star of economics" who succeeded him, the ascendant retired Fed chair.

Zions Bancorporation, Utah’s biggest lender, said the new Volcker Rule forces the company to get rid of some prohibited holdings at a cost of about $387 million….

The cost is more than Zions earned for any calendar year since 2007, marring the turnaround engineered by Chief Executive Officer Harris Simmons. The bank has posted two profitable years after three straight losses starting in 2008 that were driven by soured real estate loans and charges tied to CDOs. The disclosure by Zions spurred speculation of similar writedowns at U.S. banks.

But it isn't only former Fed chairs who are making banks groan. No! The soon-to-be-former-Fed-chair is going down swinging in his own way, dancing to his own tune, etc.

Large U.S. banks may have to clear a higher hurdle in next year's round of "stress tests," the Federal Reserve said in a letter sent Monday to 30 large banks.

The Fed will now make its own projections about how bank balance sheets will fluctuate during a future recession, rather than rely on the banks for that data. The change is likely to produce different results in the 2014 tests, the Fed said….

If the Fed had used its own projections for the 2013 test, Monday's letter said, it would have reached different results on two variables: assets and loans. The industry's results, the Fed said, showed "major contractions in loans or total assets" that are "at odds with historical experience" based on data from three recessions dating to 1990.

Volcker, Greenspan, and Bernanke Unite for Fed's 100th Birthday [Bloomberg via BW]
Zions Cites Volcker Rule on $387 Million Charge Tied to CDOs [Bloomberg]
Fed to Alter 'Stress Tests,' Make Own Recession Scenarios [WSJ]


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