ANY big announcement about banks that is made after the markets close, and with a weekend to come before they reopen, brings back dark memories of the 2007-08 financial crisis. The results of the latest European bank stress test, which were released on Friday night, lacked the drama of that period and contained much that was reassuring. But they did not dispel the doubts that linger around a handful of institutions, notably in Italy.
Aggregate numbers suggested that European banks were in a generally healthier position than at the time of the last stress test, in autumn 2014. This time the banks started off with an average “fully-loaded” capital ratio of 12.6% and ended up with one of 9.2% in the tests’ most adverse scenario; that compares with a fall from 11.1% to 7.6% last time. No country’s banking sector ended these tests with an average capital ratio below the 5.2% of Ireland; in 2014, the capital ratio for several countries was negative, implying systemic insolvency. And all banks, except for Monte dei Paschi of Italy and Allied Irish, had capital ratios in the adverse scenario that exceeded 5.5%—a threshold that has previously been…Continue reading