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Loan-to-deposit ratio at US banks hits 29-year low as transaction accounts surge

Regulatory call reports showed that deposits at U.S. banks jumped relative to loans during the first quarter as customers saved cash in the midst of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, echoing trends seen in recent public bank filings and H.8 reports from the Federal Reserve.

The industry's loan-to-deposit ratio fell to 69.5% from 72.9% a year earlier, representing the lowest quarterly ratio since 1991. Deposits surged 13.3% between the first quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020, compared to annualized growth of just 2.9% a year earlier. Loans saw an 8.0% year-over-year gain, compared to 4.1% growth in first quarter 2019.

Most of the deposit growth was seen in transaction, or checking, accounts, which are typically cheaper for banks than savings accounts or certificates of deposit.

Banks with balance sheets that went against the trend and had loans grow more than deposits may be well-positioned in the near-term interest rate environment, but could also face additional risk.

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