Banks as Lenders of First Resort: Evidence from the COVID-19 Crisis
In March of 2020, banks faced the largest increase in liquidity demands ever observed. Firms drew funds on a massive scale from pre-existing credit lines and loan commitments in anticipation of cash flow disruptions from the economic shutdown designed to contain the COVID-19 crisis. The increase in liquidity demands was concentrated at the largest banks, who serve the largest firms. Pre-crisis financial condition did not limit banks’ liquidity supply. Coincident inflows of funds to banks from both the Federal Reserve’s liquidity injection programs and from depositors, along with strong pre-shock bank capital, explain why banks were able to accommodate these liquidity demands.