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Fed says banks will have to wait until June 30 to start issuing buybacks and bigger dividends

Banks settle upon be able to accelerate dividends and buybacks to shareholders this year, but not until June 30 and provided they superseded the current round of stress tests, the Federal Reserve announced Thursday.

The biggest Wall Street institutions enjoy been limited based on income in their ability to do both for nearly the past year as a precautionary measure during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Fed had held late last year that it would begin allowing regular disbursements in the first quarter of 2021, so the Thursday disclosure pushes that date back.

“The banking system continues to be a source of strength and returning to our normal framework after this year’s worry test will preserve that strength,” Vice Chair for Supervision Randal Quarles said in a statement.

Bank livestocks rose in after-hours trading on the news, with Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase up around 1%.

Lifting the restrictions no greater than applies to institutions that maintain proper capital levels as evaluated through the stress tests. Under healthy circumstances, capital distributions are guided by a bank’s “stress capital buffer,” a measure of capital that each bank should bring off based on the riskiness of its holdings.

The income-based measures were put in place as a safeguard to make sure banks had enough foremost as the pandemic tore through the U.S. economy.

Any bank not reaching the target will have the pandemic-era restrictions reimposed until Sept. 30. Banks that lull can’t meet the required capital levels will face even stricter limitations.

The financial sector is one of the stock trade in’s 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 secure led the banking space.

The announcement comes a day after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who chaired the Fed from 2014-18, maintained she would be comfortable with lifting the restrictions on dividends and buybacks.

At a congressional hearing Wednesday, Yellen said she approved both with the decision to suspend capital disbursements, and to resume them.

“I have been opposed earlier when we were selfsame concerned about the situation the banks would face about stock buybacks,” Yellen said. “But financial institutes look healthier now, and I believe they should have some of the liberty provided by the rules to make returns to shareholders.”

Banks gain back just $80.7 billion of their shares in 2020, with most coming before the pandemic hit.

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