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Working Papers

January 2021, No. 21-01

The Fed's Discount Window in "Normal" Times

Huberto M. Ennis and Elizabeth Klee

We study new transaction-level data of discount window borrowing in the U.S. from 2010–17, merged with quarterly data on bank financial conditions (balance sheet and revenue). The objective is to improve our understanding of the reasons why banks use the discount window during periods outside financial crises. We also provide a model of the decision of banks to borrow at the window, which is helpful for interpreting the data. We find that decisions to gain access and to borrow at the discount window are meaningfully correlated with some relevant characteristics of banks and the composition of their balance sheets. Banks choose simultaneously to obtain access to the discount window and hold more cash-like liquidity as a proportion of assets. Yet, conditional on access, larger and less liquid banks tend to borrow more from the discount window. In general, our findings suggest that banks could, in principle, adapt their operations to modulate, and possibly reduce, their use of the discount window in "normal" times.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21144/wp21-01

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