RBS sale delays hit credibility more than finances

April 29, 2016

The part-state owned UK bank says it may miss an EU-mandated timeframe to dispose of 300 branches. Even if it takes another 12 months, RBS’s capital position should be OK. But for investors to believe the path to dividend reinstatement, it needs to avoid any missteps.

Chinese banks’ stealth clean-up fools nobody

April 29, 2016

Top lenders like ICBC and BOC are piling up bad loans yet still reporting flat earnings. Pliable regulators are cutting them extra slack. Investors did not trust the banks’ balance sheets anyway. The latest sleight of hand will only fuel their scepticism.

Saudi’s sweet debt deal could rebound on banks

April 21, 2016

The kingdom is close to its first international debt deal in 25 years to plug a hole in its finances caused by weak oil prices. Vast oil reserves make Saudi debt enticing, but the price slump is changing the game in several ways. And Middle East states have defaulted before.

Time for banks to go cold turkey on sovereign fix

April 18, 2016

Europe is considering tightening rules that make it easy for lenders to own government debt. Banks addicted to sovereign punts would suffer, and governments lose wiggle room. Yet reform could hasten euro area integration, while ECB bond-buying makes it a less scary prospect.

Italy’s bank rescue is a risky Plan C

April 12, 2016

Rome has corralled banks into backing a 6 bln euro rescue fund. It’s something, but raises knotty governance issues without decisively plugging bad debt holes. Were they available, market solutions or creditor bail-ins would have been much better than stiffing the bank sector.

MetLife’s SIFI label doomed by D.C. double-talk

April 8, 2016

A U.S. judge tossed the insurer’s designation as a systemically important financial institution because a regulator couldn’t keep its story straight. FSOC said it both had and hadn’t changed its rules, prompting a decision that it acted arbitrarily. An appeal will be tough to win.

Credit Suisse wise to flaunt Brexit neutrality

April 8, 2016

The Swiss bank has banned staff from events and debates tied to the UK’s EU referendum. Overt partisanship might have unnerved some Credit Suisse clients. As Switzerland renegotiates its own trading terms with Europe, Brexit impartiality also makes sense for its domestic banks.

Jamie Dimon stands up to bank breakup bullies

April 7, 2016

The JPMorgan CEO’s latest annual missive tackles everything from Brazil to Brexit. An overriding message that bigger is better in finance mostly resonates, however. A reasoned case like Dimon’s is key as the likes of Bernie Sanders and Neel Kashkari advance the carve-up cause.

Review: Erin Callan puts nail in Lehman coffin

March 25, 2016

“Full Circle” is an introspective and seemingly cathartic memoir by the ex-CFO of the collapsed investment bank. The sexism Callan says she was subjected to in her final months on Wall Street, however, provides the best evidence yet that poor management is what doomed Lehman.

China’s phony bad loan fix sends wrong signal

March 23, 2016

Regulators may let big lenders like Bank of China hold fewer provisions against dodgy credits. That will boost reported earnings but weaken balance sheets just as financial strains are growing. The willingness to bend the rules is another reason to avoid Chinese bank shares.