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Are banks dead? or, are the reports greatly exaggerated?

  • John H. Boyd
  • Mark Gertler

This article reexamines the conventional wisdom that commercial banking is in severe decline. A careful reading of the evidence does not support it. True, on-balance sheet assets held by commercial banks have declined as a share of total intermediary assets. But this measure ignores the substantial growth in banks' off-balance sheet activities, in off-shore lending by foreign banks, and in the size of the financial intermediation sector. Adjusted for these considerations, the bank-assets measure shows no clear evidence of secular decline. Neither does an alternative measure, constructed using data from the national income accounts. At most, banking may have suffered a slight loss of market share lately. But this loss is a temporary response to a series of adverse shocks rather than the start of a permanent decline.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Proceedings with number 25.

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Length: 85-117
Date of creation: 1994
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Conference on Bank Structure and Competition (1994 : 30th)
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhpr:25
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  1. Peek, Joe & Rosengren, Eric, 1995. "The Capital Crunch: Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(3), pages 625-38, August.
  2. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1993. "Credit channel or credit actions? an interpretation of the postwar transmission mechanism," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 71-149.
  3. Allen N. Berger & David B. Humphrey, 1990. "Measurement and efficiency issues in commercial banking," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 151, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Frederick T. Furlong, 1991. "Can bank capital regulation work? research revisited," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Sum, pages 32-33.
  5. Ben S. Bernanke & Cara S. Lown, 1991. "The Credit Crunch," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 22(2), pages 205-248.
  6. Boyd, John H. & Runkle, David E., 1993. "Size and performance of banking firms : Testing the predictions of theory," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 47-67, February.
  7. Robert N. McCauley & Rama Seth, 1992. "Foreign bank credit to U.S. corporations: the implications of offshore loans," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Spr, pages 52-65.
  8. Dennis J. Fixler & Kimberly D. Zieschang, 1992. "User Costs, Shadow Prices, and the Real Output of Banks," NBER Chapters, in: Output Measurement in the Service Sectors, pages 219-243 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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