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Confession Time for Big Banks in Europe: Banco Santander Reports $12.7 Billion Loss

Confession Time for Big Banks in Europe: Banco Santander Reports $12.7 Billion Loss

Too-Big-To-Fail Santander is also one of the Eurozone’s worst capitalized banks.

Banco Santander, Spain’s largest lender and one of the Eurozone’s eight global systemically important banks (G-SIBs), has posted its first ever loss in 163 years of operations. And it was gargantuan. During the first half of the year, the bank racked up a loss of €10.8 billion ($12.7 billion).

The loss was caused by heavy provisions for expected loan losses. This quarter wiped out the equivalent of one-and-a-half years of the bank’s global profits — in 2019, it posted total global profits of €6.5 billion, and in 2018 of €7.8 billion.

The losses were the result of a €2.5 billion charge related to the recoverability of tax deferred assets as well a €10.1 billion write-down on assets across a number of key overseas markets:

  • In the UK: €6.1 billion write-down of “goodwill” — amount overpaid for prior acquisitions, which included Abbey National and Alliance and Leicester. Santander already took a €1.5 billion write-down on the value of its UK business last year, blaming new regulations and the expected economic fallout from Brexit.
  • In the US: €2.3 billion write-down for Santander Consumer USA, which specializes in consumer lending, particularly subprime lending, and these consumer loans are now particularly at risk.
  • In Poland, its largest market in Eastern Europe: €1.2 billion goodwill impairments charge.
  • In its consumer finance division, which is present in 15 markets: €477 million hit.

Santander’s shares initially reacted to the news by slumping 5.8%. They then staged a partial recovery, only to slump again, ending the day down nearly 5%. Shares are down an eye-watering 45% this year, making it one of the continent’s worst-performing large financial institutions.

“The past six months have been among the most challenging in our history,” Santander’s Chairwoman Ana Botin said in a statement. “The impact of the pandemic has tested us all.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

European Banks Reveal Scale & Complexity of Crisis. Shares Hammered Back to 1987 Level

European Banks Reveal Scale & Complexity of Crisis. Shares Hammered Back to 1987 Level

They haven’t gotten over Financial Crisis 1 and the Euro Debt Crisis. Now there’s a new crisis. Deutsche Bank’s CEO going on TV to soothe nerves didn’t help matters.

The biggest European banks have started to report their earnings against a bleak backdrop of locked down economies, plunging economic activity, surging business closures and rising loan defaults. Each earnings call laid bare the scale, scope and complexity of the problems and challenges facing a European banking sector that never really recovered from their last two crises — the Global Financial Crisis followed by the Euro Debt Crisis.

The Stoxx 600 Banks index, which covers major European banks, fell 4.5% on Thursday. Today, continental European stock markets were closed (May Day), but the London Stock Exchange was open, and the index ticked down another 1% (to 88.8). The Stoxx 600 Banks index has already collapsed by 40% since Feb 17, when the Coronavirus began spreading through northern Italy. After the initial 40%-plus plunge in late February and early March, the index has remained in the same dismally low range:

On April 21, the Stoxx 600 Banks Index had closed at 79.8, down 83% since its peak in May 2007, and the lowest since 1987. The following day, the ECB announced it was going to accept junk bonds as collateral when banks borrow from it. Yesterday, the ECB was excepted to go even further and announce that it would actually buy junk-rated bonds, as the Federal Reserve announced a few weeks ago. But the ECB didn’t announce it, and the Fed hasn’t bought any junk bonds yet either.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Real Reason US Central Bankers Cannot Raise Interest Rates for the Rest of 2019

The Real Reason US Central Bankers Cannot Raise Interest Rates for the Rest of 2019

The real reason why the US Central Bank cannot raise interest rates can traced back to eight simple words – their response to the 2008 global financial crisis. US Central Bankers reached a crossroad of responsibility versus socialism for the über wealthy years before the 2008 financial crisis manifested, and they chose socialism for the über wealthy as could be expected, because Central Bankers have to somewhat appease the highest echelons of global wealth if they don’t want this class to turn their resources against them and argue for the dissolution of Central Banks. When Central Bankers, both in the US and in Europe, deliberately and very consciously chose the path of catering to the few thousands that constitute the class of the über wealthy over helping the remaining 6.8 billion people on planet Earth in 2008, they sealed the fate of what their decisions had to be some ten years later. 

During 2008, all of the largest European banks and US banks were completely bankrupt. To this day, I know that claim is disputed even though Finance Ministers that had privy to this data, like Greece’s Yanis Varoufakis, have made such claims. Furthermore, any reasonable person that looked more deeply into the financial health of all major US and European banks, the failure of which triggered the 2008 global financial crisis, would have understood that their unwillingness to operate as banks, but as massive hedge funds and to risk their clients’ deposits in hopes of making billions of profits every year, would have realized that regulatory agencies that suspended the necessity of banks marking their financial assets to market value  was enacted to allow banks to lie about their bankrupt status and project a robustness in financial health that simply did not exist.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Eurozone Banks’ Trillion Timebomb

The Eurozone Banks’ Trillion Timebomb

Eurozone banks have fallen dramatically in the stock market despite the results of the stress tests carried out by the ECB, and the EU Banks Index is down 25% on the year despite year-long bullish recommendations from almost every broker. This should not surprise anyone because we have seen in the past that these tests are only a theoretical exercise. Moreover, stress tests’ results are widely challenged, and rightly so, because the exercise starts with the most ridiculous premise in economics: Ceteris Paribus, or “all else remaining equal”, which never happens. Every asset manager knows that risk builds slowly and happens fast.

Disappointing earnings, rising risk in the eurozone as well as in their diversification markets such as emerging economies, weak net income margins and low return on tangible equity are factors that have contributed to the weak performance of European banks. Investors are rightly suspicious about consensus estimates for 2019 with expectations of double-digit EPS growth rates. Those growth rates look impossible in the current macroeconomic scenario.

Eurozone banks have done a good job of strengthening their capital structure, reaching almost a one per cent per annum increase in Tier 1 core capital. The question is whether this improvement is enough.

Two factors weigh on sentiment.

. More than EUR104 billion of risky “hybrid bonds” (CoCos) are included in the calculation of core capital.

. The total volume of Non-Performing Loans across the European Union is still at around EUR 900 billion, well above pre-crisis levels, with a provision ratio of only 50.7%, according to the European Commission.  Although the ratio has declined to 4.4%, down by roughly 1 percentage point year-on-year, the absolute figure remains elevated and the provision ratio is too small.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

State of European Banks: The ECB View vs Reality

The ECB would like you to believe the European banking system is sound and banks are better regulated. They aren’t.

Ten years after Lehman there are numerous statements from bureaucrats, academics, media and others that banks are now better regulated, more solid and liquidity problems vanished.

Reader Lars from Norway Emailed this assessment today.

Price/Book Ratio

Deutsche Bank trades at 0.30 on the low side and BNP Paribas at 0.70 on the high side. In between we have Commerzbank at 0.40, Unicredit at 0.50, and Society General at 0.50.

The verdict is negative.


​Italian and Spanish bank require € 900 billion in liquidity support on a permanent basis. ​

This element is mostly ignored by academics and others because they do not understand the implications of Target 2 as a capital flight phenomenon. This is a hidden crisis.

​The verdict is negative.

Nonperforming Loans

Italian banks would all be insolvent if NPLs were to be written off. In order to keep the facade, NPLs are kept on the books as if it’s not a problem.​

The verdict is negative.

​Proprietary Trading and Derivatives

Some of the banks have huge portfolios, led by Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas. As much as 45% of total assets. ​

Nobody knows what a strict mark-to-market exercise would lead to. Most of the derivatives are interest rate swaps that might suffer should rates rise.

​The verdict is negative.

Emerging Market and Troubled Bank Exposure

French banks have huge exposures to Italy, and Italian banks have big exposure to Turkey.

​The verdict is negative.

Contagion Risk

We learned from 2008 that interbank markets can freeze. Liquidity is no longer available. How much more than the € ,400 billion is the eurosystem willing to provide to insolvent Spanish, Italian and Greek banks?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Deutsche Bank’s Troubles Raise Worries About the Future of the Euro Zone

The euro banking sector is huge: In April 2018, its total balance sheet amounted to 30.9 trillion euro, accounting for 268 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the euro area. Unfortunately, however, many euro banks are in lousy shape. They suffer from low profitability and carry an estimated total bad loan exposure of around 759 billion euro, which accounts for roughly 30 per cent of their equity capital.

Share price developments suggest that investors have lost quite some confidence in the viability of euro banks’ businesses: While US bank stocks are up 24 per cent since the beginning of 2006, the index for euro-area bank stocks is still down by around 70 per cent. Perhaps most notably, ’Germany’s two largest banks, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, have lost 85 and 94 per cent, respectively, of their market capitalization.


With a balance sheet of close to 1.5 trillion euro in March 2018, Deutsche Bank accounted for around 45 per cent of German GDP. In international comparison, this an enormous, downright frightening dimension. It is mostly the result of the bank still having an extensive (though not profitable) footprint in the international investment banking business. The bank has already started reducing its balance sheet, though.


Beware of big banks — this is what we could learn from the latest financial and economic crises 2008/2009. Big banks have the potential to take an entire economy hostage: When they get into trouble, they can drag everything down with them, especially the innocent bystanders – taxpayers and, if and when the central banks decide to bail them out, those holding fiat money and fixed income securities denominated in fiat money.

Banking Risks

For this reason, it makes sense to remind ourselves of the fundamental risks of banking – namely liquidity riskand solvency risk –, for if and when these risks materialise, monetary policy-makers can be expected to resort to inflationary actions.

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ECB Capitulates On Defusing Eurozone’s “$1 Trillion Ticking Time Bomb”

In late 2017, the ECB surprised central bank watchers, briefly spooked markets, and angered many Italians, with its plan to eradicate what many have dubbed the “ticking time-bomb” at the heart of the Eurozone, namely the roughly $1 trillion in non-performing loans across European banks (a number which is materially higher in reality as Euro banks were recently caught misrepresenting it).

The ECB then quickly came under fire – mostly from Italy whose banks have the biggest notional amount of bad loans – for demanding that banks set aside far more capital as loss buffer for when the €900 billion in bad loans are ultimately discharged.

Fast forward six months when it now appears that the European central bank came, saw… and ran away when faced with what now appears to be an certifiably insurmountable problem: as Reuters reported this morning, the ECB “is considering shelving planned rules that would have forced banks to set aside more money against their stock of unpaid loans, after suffering a political backlash.

The NPL guidelines, which were already delayed by a month, and were expected by March, were pitched as a key anchor of the ECB’s plan to bring down the $930 billion pile of non-performing credit that has crippled eurozone banks for the past decade, particularly those in Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and Italy.

Instead, the ECB is now planning to tactically surrender as there NPL problem has proven too massive for banks to be able to officially address it, or as Reuters put its far more politically, “the ECB was now considering whether further policies on legacy non-performing loans were necessary depending on the progress made by individual banks.” Of course, since there has barely been any progress in resolving this issue, the conclusion is simple: the ECB is no longer pushing for an NPL resolution, as there simply isn’t a viable one.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Many European Banks Would Collapse Without Regulators’ Help: Fitch

Many European Banks Would Collapse Without Regulators’ Help: Fitch

Only two things keep these banks alive: “a State willing to support them and a regulator that does not declare them insolvent.”

Dozens of Greek, Italian, Spanish and even German lenders have volumes of troubled assets higher or similar to that of Spain’s fallen lender Banco Popular. They, too, are at risk of insolvency. This stark observation came from Bridget Gandy, director of financial institutions for Fitch Ratings, who spoke at a conference in London on Thursday.

The troubled banks include:

  • Greece’s HB, Piraeus, NBG, Eurobank and Alpha;
  • Italy’s Monte dei Pachi di Siena (which is in the process of being rescued with state funds), Carige (9th largest bank, now under ECB orders to raise capital or else), CreVal, and the two collapsed banks, Veneto and Vicenza (whose senior bondholders were bailed out last weekend);
  • Germany’s Bremer Landesbank (which just cancel interest payments on its CoCo bonds) and shipping lender HSH Nordbank.
  • Spain’s Liberbank and majority state-owned BMN and Bankia, which are completing a merger after private-sector institutions refused to buy BMN. Now, the problems on BMN’s balance sheet belong to Bankia, which already has its own set of issues, Gandy said.

That many of Europe’s banks are teetering on the brink of insolvency is not exactly new news. Most of the problems that caused the financial crisis have not been resolved. As the financial journalist and former investment banker Nomi Prins said in a 2015 interview with Dutch media group VPRO, “in Europe there still exist massive amounts of trades (on banks’ balance sheets) that are underwater and going wrong every day.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Where Negative Interest Rates Will Lead Us

Where Negative Interest Rates Will Lead Us Where Negative Interest Rates Will Lead Us

Despite zero-interest-rate-policy (ZIRP) and multiple quantitative easing programs — whereby the central bank buys large quantities of assets while leaving interest rates at practically zero — the world’s economies are stuck in the doldrums. The central banks’ only accomplishment seems to be an increase in public and private debt. Therefore, the next step for the Keynesian economists who rule central banks everywhere is to make interest rates negative (i.e., adopt negative-interest-rate-policy or “NIRP.”) The process can be as simple as the central bank charging its member banks for holding excess reserves, although the same thing can be accomplished by more roundabout methods such as manipulating the reverse repo market.

Remember, it was the central bank itself that created these excess reserves when it purchased assets with money created out of thin air. The reserves landed in bank reserve accounts at the central bank when the recipients of the central bank’s asset purchases deposited their checks in their local banks. Now the banks have liabilities that are backed by depreciating assets (i.e., the banks still owe their customers the full amount in their checking accounts), but the central bank charges the banks for holding the reserves that back the deposits. In effect, the banks are being extorted by the central banks to increase lending or lose money. The banks have no choice. If they can’t find worthy borrowers, they must charge their customers for the privilege of having money in their checking accounts. Or, as is happening in some European banks, the banks try to increase loan rates to current borrowers in order to cover the added cost.

In European countries where NIRP reigns, so far, the banks are charging only large account holders for their deposits. So, these large account customers are scrambling to move their money out of banks and into assets that do not depreciate.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Day Of Reckoning: The Collapse Of The Too Big To Fail Banks In Europe Is Here

Day Of Reckoning: The Collapse Of The Too Big To Fail Banks In Europe Is Here

Europe Lightning - Public DomainThere is so much chaos going on that I don’t even know where to start.  For a very long time I have been warning my readers that a major banking collapse was coming to Europe, and now it is finally unfolding.  Let’s start with Deutsche Bank.  The stock of the most important bank in the “strongest economy in Europe” plunged another 8 percent on Monday, and it is now hovering just above the all-time record low that was set during the last financial crisis.  Overall, the stock price is now down a staggering 36 percent since 2016 began, and Deutsche Bank credit default swaps are going parabolic.  Of course my readers were alerted to major problems at Deutsche Bank all the way back in September, and now the endgame is playing out.  In addition to Deutsche Bank, the list of other “too big to fail” banks in Europe that appear to be in very serious trouble includes Commerzbank, Credit Suisse, HSBC and BNP Paribas.  Just about every major bank in Italy could fall on that list as well, and Greek bank stocks lost close to a quarter of their value on Monday alone.  Financial Armageddon has come to Europe, and the entire planet is going to feel the pain.

The collapse of the banks in Europe is dragging down stock prices all over the continent.  At this point, more than one-fifth of all stock market wealth in Europe has already been wiped out since the middle of last year.  That means that we only have four-fifths left.  The following comes from USA Today

The MSCI Europe index is now down 20.5% from its highest point over the past 12 months, says S&P Global Market Intelligence, placing it in the 20% decline that unofficially defines a bear market.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why a selloff in European banks is ominous

Europe’s bank index has posted its longest weekly string of losses since 2008

Everett Collection 
Dark clouds are gathering around Europe’s banking sector.

European banks have been caught in a perfect storm of market turmoil, lately.

Lackluster profits and negative interest rates, have prompted investors to dump shares in the sector that was touted as one of the best investment ideas just a few months ago.

“The current environment for European banks is very, very bad. Over a full business cycle, I think it’s very questionable whether banks on average are able to cover their cost of equity. And as a result that makes it an unattractive investment for long-term investors.”

Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank.

The region’s banking gauge, the Stoxx Europe 600 Banks Index FX7, -5.59% has logged six straight weeks of declines, its longest weekly losing stretch since 2008, when banks booked 10 weeks of losses, beginning in May, according to FactSet data.

The doom-and-gloom outlook for banks comes as the stock market has had an ominous start to the year.

East or west, investors ran for the exit in a market marred by panic over tumbling oil prices CLH6, -3.01%  and signs of sluggishness in China. But for Europe’s banking sector, the new year has started even worse, sending the bank index down 23% year-to-date, compared with 13% for the broader Stoxx Europe 600 index SXXP, -3.54%

Jeroen Blokland/Robeco

European banks have underperformed the broader regional market

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Europe’s Banks – Insolvent Zombies

Europe’s Banks – Insolvent Zombies

The Walking Dead

Now that Europe’s fractionally reserved banking system has been regulated into complete inertia, it is a good time to assess the current bottom line, so to speak. We should mention here that there are essentially two ways of dealing with the banking system. One is to introduce an unhampered free market banking system based on strong property rights and nothing else. Such a system would work best if it were based on sound money, i.e., a market-chosen medium of exchange. The regulations governing such a system would fit on a napkin.

zombie bank2

Image credit: Warner Bros, processing fmh

1-EuroStoxx Bank IndexThe Euro-Stoxx bank index, weekly, over the past 10 years. Recently the index has been unable to overcome resistance in the 160-162 area. The bust and the reaction of the authorities to the bust has made zombies out of Europe’s big banks – click to enlarge.

The other way is to construct what we have now: a banking cartel administered and backstopped by a central bank, based on fiat money the supply of which can be expanded at will and involving continual violations of property rights. Fractional reserve banking represents a violation of property rights, because it is based on the assumption that two or more persons can have a legally valid claim on the same originally deposited sum of money (for an extensive backgrounder on this, see our series on FR banking – part 1part 2 and part 3). This legal fiction is very convenient for the banks and the State, but it sooner or later renders the banking system inherently insolvent (a de facto, but not a de iure insolvency).

Given this system’s inherent insolvency, the regulations governing it obviously won’t fit on a napkin. Instead they fill several volumes the size of telephone directories and keep growing like weeds.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…




Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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