Eurozone banks face additional $283bn writedowns


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Eurozone banks face additional losses of more than $283bn this year and next as continental Europe’s severe recession intensifies strains on its financial sector, the European Central Bank has warned.

The fates of the eurozone economy and its banks have become increasingly interlinked, the ECB reported on Monday in its latest “financial stability review” with banks losses expected to be focused on their loan exposures. Risks to the stability of the financial sector remained high, it said, while “uncertainty prevails” over the shock-absorbing capacity of the banking system.

Its stark comments could fuel calls for European politicians to step up the “stress-testing” of the Continent’s banks to restore confidence in the system. Weaknesses in continental Europe’s banks have come under increasing global scrutiny recently, with finance ministers facing pressure at a G8 summit in southern Italy at the weekend to follow the lead set by the US.

Lucas Papademos, ECB vice-president, said that “a negative interplay” between the financial sector and the economy had become clearer since the start of this year. He stopped short of calling for more rigorous stress testing or the publication of review results saying the issue “remains the responsibility of national authorities”. The ECB, which acts as the monetary authority for the 16 countries that share the euro, is not a bank supervisor.

However Mr Papademos repeated the ECB’s plea for banks to ensure they had sufficient capital and liquidity buffers and to take advantage of government support schemes.

Despite the scale of the bank losses that the ECB saw as still facing eurozone bank, it was strikingly less gloomy than the International Monetary Fund, An IMF report in April put expected write-downs this year and 2010 at US $750bn, although taking account of loss provisions and write-offs up until May this year would reduce that to about $540bn. The gap was due to different assumptions, for instance on the performance of loans.

The ECB also expressed confidence that the eurozone’s largest banks could endure any further economic deterioration, saying “most … appear to be sufficiently well capitalised to withstand severe but plausible downside scenarios”.

Among the main risks to the eurozone’s financial system identified were: a renewed loss of confidence in the financial strength of large banks; balance sheet strains facing insurers; larger-than-expected further falls in US house prices, and “an even more severe than currently projected economic downturn in the euro area,” Mr Papademos said. Banks also faced the risk that they had become “possibly too reliant” on emergency liquidity provided by central banks since the start of the financial crisis, according to the ECB report

While attention had so far focused on write-downs related to asset-backed securities and derivatives, the report said that “increasingly … attention is focusing on corporate debt and the likely loan losses that may materialise as the turmoil continues and the real economy endures a significant slowdown.” The ECB does not expect the eurozone to return to positive quarterly growth until the middle of 2010.

The ECB also warned about the threat posed by an intensification of the difficulties facing central and eastern Europe economies. But it concluded that even if the “worse case” scenario materialised this year in the European Union’s newest member states, Asia and South America, the balance sheets of the eurozone’s largest banks would, overall “not be unduly strained” – although some individual banks would be significantly worse affected. / Brussels / Economy - Eurozone banks face $283bn writedowns
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Rick B

Despite the scale of the bank losses that the ECB saw as still facing eurozone bank, it was strikingly less gloomy than the International Monetary Fund . . .
It is so interesting to me how different the forecasts are. I know that the Eurozone has some real issues to deal with. I have even seen very reputable commentators opine about the end of the Euro, etc. Ireland was supposed to have imploded by now, from what I read back in January & February.

I know this is hardly a scientific assessment--it is just my view of things. I am an American who happens to be living in Europe at the moment. And, unlike what I have seen back in the States, nothing here really seems to have changed all that much. I'm not saying that it is not difficult times, and I see news reports about unemployment, etc. I just do not see anything (other than a flat real estate market) that really is a change in everyday life. I'm not in a big city, so I admit that my view may be limited. I just don't see many of the people around me really even noticing a change--except for what they see on the news.

Which brings me to the question I keep having. How much of this "crisis" we are facing in the global financial system right now is actually real? And how much of it is being manufactured (or at least inflated) by the media? I know that sounds cynical, but I think this whole crisis is engineered by the "powers that be" to fleece individual investors/traders lie you and me. All the fundamentals point to a certain result, all the inverstors jump in, and then they manage to manipulate the markets the other way. They've been doing this with gold for some time now with various accounting tricks between the various central banks.

Anyway, I'm not trying to take away from the importance of your report. I just feel the need to take all of these things with a grain of salt lately. I'll put the soapbox away now:embarrassed:, and I'll let you get back to your regularly-scheduled broadcast.