Europe’s banks: sustaining the renewal of confidence


By Céline Antonin and Vincent Touzé

Since August 2012, bank shares in the stock markets have risen and their volatility has reduced, attesting to a return of confidence. Is this newfound confidence sustainable? OFCE Note no. 36 of 11 December 2013 attempts to answer this question by taking stock of the state of the banks in late 2013.

The financial crisis saw the valuation of banks suffer due to both a decline in the profitability of activities related to the financial markets and a general crisis of confidence in stock market investments. Since August 2012, however, bank results have improved, as has their performance on the stock markets.

That said, this newfound confidence is emerging in a context of profound change: the crisis has altered the way the European banking system functions, with the European Central Bank playing a greater role in lending to banks and with a sharp reduction in national exposures in the riskier countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Greece).

Whether this confidence is sustainable will depend on the ability of the banks to face up to two challenges: first, to reduce the risk of insolvency of public and private debt in certain Member States; and second, to adapt to the institutional changes taking place at the European level (implementation of Basel 3, the banking union project and the gradual shift from a bail-out logic to a bail-in logic).