Recent Developments and Risks in the Euro Area Banking Sector
This article provides an overview of euro area banks’ exposure to risk and examines the effects of the cyclical downturn in 2001. It describes the extent to which euro area banks’ risk profile has changed as a result of recent structural developments, such as an increase in investment banking, mergers, securitisation and more sophisticated risk management techniques. The article stresses that the environment in which banks operated in 2001 was fairly complex due to the relatively weak economic performance of all major economies as well as the events of 11 September in the United States. It evaluates the effects of these adverse circumstances on banks’ stability and overall performance. The article provides bank balance sheet information as well as financial market prices, arguing that the latter may be useful when assessing the soundness of the banking sector in a forward-looking manner. It concludes with a review of the overall stability of euro area banks, pointing to robustness in the face of the adverse developments in 2001 and the somewhat improved forward-looking indicators of banks’ financial strength in early 2002.