Debt woes in Greece have sent bond yields soaring and increased the prospect of sovereign default. A restructuring of Greek debt will deal a blow to lenders in Germany and France that are insufficiently capitalized to manage the losses. Finance ministers, EU heads-of-state and the European Central Bank (ECB) have responded forcefully to try to avert another banking meltdown that could plunge the world back into recession. They have created a nearly-$1 trillion European Stabilization Fund (ESF) to calm markets and ward-off speculators. But the contagion has already spread beyond Greece to Spain, Portugal and Italy where leaders have started to aggressively cut public spending and initiate austerity programs. Belt-tightening in the Eurozone will decrease aggregate demand and threaten the fragile recovery. We are at a critical inflection point.
From American Banker:
"Bank stocks plunged last week under the theory that banking companies will take large losses in Europe. The theory is correct. Banks will get hurt," Richard Bove of Rochdale Securities LLC wrote in a research note.
Bove wrote in a separate report last week that "big American banks have a bigger stake in this drama than thought." He estimates that JPMorgan Chase has $1.4 trillion of exposure across all of Europe alone, while Citigroup Inc. has $468.4 billion.
Analysts said large U.S. banks have opaque ties to the region through their overseas counterparts. U.S. money-center banks trade derivatives, orchestrate currency swaps and handle other transactions with large European banks. U.S. banks may not hold a lot sovereign debt in Europe, but those European institutions do. If Greece defaults, that could create a crisis of confidence in the European banking market that would spread to large U.S. banks.