Recent Developments and Risks in the Euro Area Banking Sector
ECB Monthly Bulletin,
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.
Rating Agency Actions and the Pricing of Debt and Equity of European Banks: What Can we Infer About Private Sector Monitoring of Bank Soundness?
The recent consultative papers by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has raised the possibility of an explicit role for external rating agencies in the assessment of the credit risk of banks’ assets, including interbank claims. Any judgement on the merits of this proposal calls for an assessment of the information contained in credit ratings and its relationship to other publicly available information on the financial health of banks and borrowers. We assess this issue via an event study of rating change announcements by leading international rating agencies, focusing on rating changes for European banks for which data on bond and equity prices are available. We find little evidence of announcement effects on bond prices, which may reflect the lack of liquidity in bond markets in Europe during much of our sample period. For equity prices, we find strong effects of ratings changes, although some of our results may suffer from contamination by contemporaneous news events. We also test for pre-announcement and post-announcement effects, but find little evidence of either. Overall, our results suggest that ratings agencies may perform a useful role in summarizing and obtaining non-public information on banks and that monitoring of banks’ risk through bond holders appears to be relatively limited in Europe. The relatively weak monitoring by bondholders casts some doubt on the effectiveness of a subordinated debt requirement as a supervisory tool in the European context, at least until bond markets are more developed.