Fed’s Powell Tight-Lipped on Bank Dividends and Leverage Relief
(Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is deflecting lawmakers’ questions on two items that are at the top of Wall Street’s wish list: whether the Fed will drop restrictions on bank dividends and if it will keep giving lenders a break on capital demands due to Covid-19.
In back-to-back hearings in the Senate and House this week, Powell refused to budge in the face of repeated queries -- mostly from Republicans -- about temporary measures the Fed implemented to strengthen the financial system during the pandemic.
The Fed capped dividends last year to ensure that banks would hold enough cash to maintain high capital levels. The regulator recently let up on its ban of stock-buybacks, and lenders have been eager for it to allow them resume shareholder payouts, as well.
Banks also want the Fed to extend relief that expires next month that relaxed rules on leverage, thus allowing lenders to take on more low-risk assets without amping up their capital. Powell offered similar versions of the same quote, “That’s something that’s under consideration right now.” Basically saying: You’ll know the answer when we tell everybody else.
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