The biggest US banks are more vulnerable than they were last year, Fed’s stress test shows

America’s biggest banks are well positioned to survive a severe recession while continuing to lend to households and businesses, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday in its annual bank resilience test, commonly referred to as a stress test. However, banks could suffer higher losses, if a significant economic downturn were to hit now versus a year ago.

As a result of the banking crisis that fueled the Great Recession, the Fed conducts stress tests to monitor and uncover potential signs of weaknesses in the financial system. The tests have taken on an extra layer of importance after the collapse of three US banks sent shockwaves through the banking system last year.

The 31 banks required to take the test would lose $685 billion. That’s an increase of $144 billion compared to last year’s stress test results. However, fewer banks were tested last year.

Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr attributed the higher collective losses to the fact that banks have taken on more risk while incurring higher expenses. The higher interest rate environment we’re currently in has made it riskier, and more costly, for banks to make loans, which can depress their profitability.

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