Bankers Trust Cuts Prime Rate to 10 Percent
NEW YORK (AP) _ One of the nation’s largest banks, Bankers Trust, trimmed its prime lending rate to a 61/2 -year low, reducing it by a half percentage point to 10 percent effective Thursday.
Analysts had been predicting a cut in the prime rate for several weeks because the interest rates set in the money-markets, where banks get a sizeable portion of their lendable funds, have fallen.
However, no other large banks Wednesday followed the lead of Bankers Trust, the nation’s eighth largest bank in terms of deposits.
The reduction was the first in the industry since mid-January and put the key business-borrowing charge at its lowest level since October 1978.
″Interest rates have been trending down since March,″ said Livia Asher, who follows bank stocks for the investment firm First Boston Corp. ″If anything, I’m kind of surprised that it hasn’t happened sooner.″
The decline is of particular importance to commercial borrowers whose rates are often tied to the bank’s prime rate, sometimes known as the reference rate.
Large businesses are often able to borrow at rates below the prime rate, while many smaller borrowers must pay more.
Although there is no direct link, some analysts also said the prime rate reduction could also foreshadow declines in consumer rates on home equity, auto, student and mortgage loans.
The prime rate is also important to Third World borrowers, many of whom pay interest charges pegged to the prime rate.
Last month, banks generally reported that their first-quarter earnings benefited from widening differences between what they must pay to get funds and what they derive from loaning and investing that money.
Thomas Parisi, a Bankers Trust spokesman, said the prime rate cut reflected declines in rates ″pretty much across the board″ on money market instruments that the bank uses to get funds.
For example, the average yields on six-month certificates of deposit fell to 8.75 percent in April from 9.60 percent in March.
″Our own judgment is the decline is a real decline and our expectation is that rates would either stabilize at this level or, perhaps, trend down still further,″ Parisi said.
In addition to the money markets, banks get funds from consumer deposits and frequently borrow from each other. Those rates have also fallen.
The prime rate fell steadily in the last three months of 1984, starting Sept. 27 when it was cut to 12.75 percent from the 13 percent level that had prevailed for three months.
The last time major banks cut the prime rate was Jan. 15, when it was reduced by a quarter percentage point to 10.5 percent.