First of all, you should be sceptical anytime EVERYONE is saying that the stress tests were too weak, if the market doesn’t register the same disappointment.
As Jamie Coleman at ForexLive put it, groupthink can be expensive.
As we argued in the hour before the results were release, what was really being tested was the political/regulatory structure of Europe. Could the famously fractious EU actually pull off a credible-looking test with some harmony? The answer turned out to be yes.
Meanwhile, European regulators might actually be in better shape now than they were before. Felix Salmon argues that leniency aside, if at a minimum the whole exercise got everyone talking and seriously looking into the banking system, that’s a long-term plus.
That actually dovetails nicely with a point Christopher Whalen made in a guest contribution at Reuters:
In the EU, on the other hand, there is virtually no transparency on bank financial statements and thus no visibility for investors in terms of making the stress tests credible. There is no SEC in Europe, no EDGAR or FDIC portals on the internet with extensive financial data on banks. There is not even a common template for gathering financial data on European banks or even credit statistics for many EU consumers.
Financial analysts, risk professionals and publishers cannot even obtain basic financial data regarding EU banks without going through enormous trouble and expense. Thus the entire EU stress test process is suspect. And analysts have no way to independently verify either the inputs or the results.
Look it is possible, appearance of leniency aside, that the European banking system is not that bad, especially if no governments collapse. The problem is: in an opaque system, the presumption is to be fearful of everyone, because you can’t easily sort winners and losers.
The crises of this spring indicate that Europe has a long way to go in terms of figuring out its structure. The latest exercise may yet prove to have been an important step.
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