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Working Papers

January 2021, No. 21-01R

The Fed's Discount Window in "Normal" Times (Revised June 2023)

Huberto M. Ennis and Elizabeth Klee

We study new transaction-level data of bank borrowings at the U.S. Federal Reserve discount window from 2010 to 2019. We merged this data with quarterly information about banks' balance sheets and income statements. To aid in the interpretation of our empirical analysis, we also develop a detailed model of the decision of banks to borrow from various sources, including the discount window. The objective is to contribute to a better understanding of the reasons why banks use the discount window during periods of relative calm in financial markets. We find that borrowing from the discount window is tightly linked to basic bank characteristics—such as size and location—and to the composition of banks' balance sheets. Most importantly, banks holding less reserves tend to borrow more often (and more) from the discount window. Similarly, banks with less liquid and riskier asset portfolios, and less market-pledgeable collateral, are also more likely to borrow from the Fed's discount window.