Larger Wall Street institutions have been constrained by income in their ability to do both for nearly last year as a precautionary measure during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Fed said late last year that it would start allowing regular disbursements in the first quarter of 2021, so Thursday’s announcement pushes that date back.
“The banking system continues to be a source of strength and returning to our normal framework after this year’s stress test will preserve that strength,” Vice President Oversight Randal Quarles said in a statement.
Bank stocks rose after hours of trading on the news, with Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase up about 1%.
The lifting of restrictions only applies to institutions that maintain appropriate levels of capital, as assessed by stress tests. Under normal circumstances, distributions of capital are guided by a bank’s “stress capital cushion”, a measure of the capital that each bank should hold based on the risk level of its holdings.
The income-based measures were put in place to ensure that banks had enough capital as the pandemic tore the U.S. economy apart.
Any bank that fails to meet the target will see the pandemic-era restrictions reimposed until September 30. Banks that still cannot meet the required capital levels will face even more stringent limitations.
The financial sector is one of the stock market leaders this year, with the group up 14.7% year-to-date on the S&P 500. People’s United, Fifth Third and Wells Fargo lead the way. banking area.
The announcement comes a day after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who chaired the Fed from 2014 to 2018, said she would be comfortable with the lifting of restrictions on dividends and redemptions.
During a congressional hearing on Wednesday, Yellen said she agreed with both the decision to suspend and resume capital disbursements.
“I objected earlier when we were very concerned about the situation that banks would face with regard to share buybacks,” Yellen said. “But financial institutions seem healthier now, and I believe they should have some of the freedom offered by the rules to give returns to shareholders. ”
Banks only repurchased $ 80.7 billion of their shares in 2020, most of them before the outbreak of the pandemic.