Banks borrowed slightly less from the Federal Reserve's emergency lending program over the past week, a sign the credit markets are improving.
The Fed said Thursday that banks averaged $6.2 billion in daily borrowing for the week that ended Wednesday. That's down from $6.7 billion in average borrowing in the previous week.
The central bank's emergency lending program, known as the discount window, was rarely used before the financial crisis. But at the height of the meltdown in the fall of 2008, daily borrowing from the discount window peaked at $110 billion as banks found their customary sources of credit frozen.
With financial and economic conditions improving, the Fed has been winding down several special lending programs and other efforts to combat the crisis.
The largest of those efforts was a $1.25 trillion program to purchase mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which was intended to lower mortgage rates. The Fed ended that program on March 30 as scheduled.
The Fed's buying program drove mortgage rates to a record low of 4.7 percent in December. Rates have since moved up to around 5 percent.
The central bank's activities produced record profits for the Fed, enabling it to turn over $47.4 billion to the Treasury Department. The Fed is funded from the interest it earns on its vast portfolio of securities. It is not funded by Congress. After covering its expenses, the Fed gives what is left over to the Treasury Department.
The Fed's portfolio of mortgage securities generated interest payments of $20.4 billion, the central bank said Wednesday.
But the Fed could face risks when the time comes to unload some of these securities. If prices fall when the Fed has to sell them, it could lose money.
The Fed said in its weekly report Thursday that it now has $2.34 trillion in assets, nearly triple its holdings before the financial crisis began in the summer of 2007.
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