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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 Minneapolis in its series Working Papers with number 531.

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Date of creation: 1994
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Quarterly Review, Summer 1994, v. 18, no. 3, pp. 2-23
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmwp:531
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  1. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1993. "Credit Channel or Credit Actions? An Interpretation of the Postwar Transmission Mechanism," NBER Working Papers 4485, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Joe Peek & Eric Rosengren, 1993. "The Capital Crunch: Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Be," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 243, Boston College Department of Economics.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Allen N. Berger & David B. Humphrey, 1992. "Measurement and Efficiency Issues in Commercial Banking," NBER Chapters, in: Output Measurement in the Service Sectors, pages 245-300 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. Frederick T. Furlong, 1991. "Can bank capital regulation work? research revisited," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Sum, pages 32-33.
  8. 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.
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