- Associated Press - Thursday, June 17, 2010

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders agreed Thursday to go public with the results of “stress tests” checking the stability of the bloc’s banks, an attempt to restore confidence to markets spooked since Greece demanded a bailout to prevent an embarrassing default.

Despite market fears that Spain may be the next country to need a rescue plan, EU leaders meeting at a summit of the 27-nation bloc in Brussels insisted that they are not worried.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, “We don’t believe there is a problem, and that’s the analysis of all 27 of us.” He said that the European Central Bank and the European Commission agree and that Europe has “full confidence” in Spanish authorities’ ability to handle the situation.

Europe’s debate about making bank results public was revived this week by Spain, which said it would publish the stress tests in an effort to calm market fears that banks haven’t faced up to potential losses if the economy worsens and house prices continue to fall.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told reporters that the tests would give investors confidence in Spanish banks and “demonstrate that our financial institutions are properly supervised, that they work.”

European President Herman van Rompuy said the results of the tests by national banking supervisors will be released in the second half of July.

The United States published stress tests in 2009 to show how much capital the country’s 19 biggest banks needed to raise to cope with more losses.

Such tests give an estimate of what potential losses financial institutions could be facing. If a result shows that an institution can’t cope with necessary write-downs in case of a worsening market environment, the bank is required to put more money aside to counter the extra risk.

Also at the summit, Mr. Sarkozy said European Union leaders will call for a global tax on financial transactions. The 27 leaders want the United States and others to back a tax at a Group of 20 summit of rich and emerging nations in Toronto next week — despite opposition from some nations. It is unclear how exactly a global tax would work.

European Union leaders have also used the summit to try to fix deep, long-standing problems with their economy by forging tougher rules to rein in government overspending — and prevent another debt crisis.

EU nations are trying to calm volatile markets worried about Europe’s soaring debts, both public and private.

Since the announcement of the Greek bailout, a 750 billion euro ($1 trillion) “shock and awe” financial rescue package for other indebted countries has failed to turn around the euro’s slide in recent weeks as markets eye wider problems across Europe: a banking system that may not have fully owned up to losses from the 2008 crisis and the prospect of slow economic growth for years ahead.



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