Thursday, November 17, 2011

US banks face contagion risk from Europe

A Bloomberg article reports on Fitch's observation that US banks face contagion risk if the European debt crisis widens.

It is hard to argue with this observation as the implosion of the European financial system as we know it  undoubtedly wouldn't be a positive for the US financial system.

It is also true that market participants do not have access to the current detailed exposure data for the US banks to assess exactly how bad the damage might be.
U.S. banks face a “serious risk” that their creditworthiness will deteriorate if Europe’s debt crisis deepens and spreads beyond the five most-troubled nations, Fitch Ratings said. 
“Unless the euro zone debt crisis is resolved in a timely and orderly manner, the broad credit outlook for the U.S. banking industry could worsen,” the New York-based rating company said yesterday in a statement. 
Even as U.S. banks have “manageable” exposure to stressed European markets, “further contagion poses a serious risk,” Fitch said, without explaining what it meant by contagion. 
The “exposures” of U.S. lenders to major European banks and the stressed nations of Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain, known as the GIIPS, are smaller than those to some of the continent’s larger countries, Fitch said. 
The six biggest U.S. banks -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM),Bank of America Corp. (BAC)Citigroup Inc. (C)Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley (MS)-- had $50 billion in risk tied to the GIIPS on Sept. 30, Fitch said. So-called cross-border outstandings to France for all except Wells Fargo were $188 billion, including $114 billion to French banks. Risk to Britain and its banks was $225 billion and $51 billion, respectively.

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