(Epic Economist)—Bank executives are warning about unprecedented risks in the financial system. According to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, banks are bracing for worst-case scenarios as higher interest rates elevate the risk of failures and losses in the months ahead. Americans should pay very close attention to what happens next because the turbulence will affect all of us.
The executive kicked off third-quarter earnings season alerting investors about a threatening outlook: “Now may be the most dangerous time the world has seen in decades,” he wrote in the company’s latest report. Dimon noted during an interview with CNN that bank executives across the United States are “climbing the wall of worry,” referring to the poor risk assessment of Wall Street investors right now.
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In total, U.S. banks could be grappling with at least $650 billion of unrealized losses in their securities portfolios, according to analysts estimates, after prospects of interest rates staying higher for longer led to a bond market rout in the third quarter.
Unrealized losses have come under closer scrutiny by investors since Silicon Valley Bank collapsed in March. Back then, the institution sold a portfolio of its holdings at a sharp loss, precipitating its downfall and fueling the worst industry turmoil since the 2008 financial crisis.
The industry’s woes have gone from bad to worse after Moody’s Investors Service cut the credit ratings of 10 small and mid-sized American banks. The actions have sparked widespread concerns over American lenders’ costs, profitability, and specific exposures and have also raised crucial questions about the banking sector’s potential vulnerability to another crisis.
Debt delinquency also shot up in the past quarter. Losses currently stand at 3.63%, up 1.5 percentage points from the bottom, and the firm sees them rising another 1.3 percentage points to 4.93% by the end of 2023. This comes at a time when Americans owe more than $1 trillion on credit cards, the highest level in U.S. history.
The number of Americans who have filed for personal bankruptcy went up by 20%, legal services firm Epiq reported. Even though filing for bankruptcy can alleviate serious financial pressure, it also impacts credit scores for up to ten years and makes it harder to secure housing, loans, jobs, and even security clearances.
Simultaneously, corporate bankruptcies are soaring, too. So far, more than 400 corporations have gone under. Corporate bankruptcies are rising at the fastest pace since 2010, and are double the level seen this time last year.
Companies in the consumer discretionary and industrial sectors have seen the most bankruptcies as demand continues to cool down.
Historically, these sectors carry significant debt on their balance sheets, putting them at higher risk in a rising rate environment. In the past twelve months, corporate interest costs have increased by 22%. They are also contending with higher wages, energy, and materials, among others, meaning that more and more companies are under greater pressure to cut costs, restructure their debt, or in the worst case, fold.
The consumer is breaking, companies are falling apart, and the financial system is crumbling down piece by piece. Another disaster seems to be brewing, and every one of us will be affected by it.