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Geithner: The Patient is Out of Intensive Care

It’s been a long, strange ride, but the nation’s financial system is finally starting what is certain to be an extended healing process. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner believes that “the financial system is starting to heal” as he promised to move returned bail-out funds to community banks that need help.bandaid-on-broken-and-cracked-piggy-bank

Improved lending circumstances are tempering concerns about systemic risk and reduced leverage at banks, according to Geithner, who noted that “a substantial part of the adjustment process” for the financial sector is now coming to an end.

Several of the larger banks – Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Capital One Financial – want to repay the funds they received under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.  The Treasury will increase the money community banks can access to five percent of risk-weighted assets from three percent.  The government has already invested in preferred stock in 300 smaller banks.

“As in any financial crisis, the damage has been unfair and indiscriminate,” Geithner said.  “Ordinary Americans, small business owners and community banks who did the right thing and played by the rules are suffering from the actions of those who took on too much risk.”

Why the optimism?  Geithner points to declines in corporate bond spreads, lower risk premiums in inter-bank markets and cheaper default insurance on big banks as evidence that the financial system is healing.  “These are welcome signs, but the process of financial recovery and repair is going to take time,” he cautions.

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