Friday, July 15, 2011

Stress tests?

I suspect that what goes on at the European Banking Authority is pretty much above board, in general, but still -- are the stress tests reported on here really designed to find points of potential weakness? I'm not reassured when the New York Times reports that the tests were designed in part to "restore confidence in the overall health of the European financial system." This sounds a little like a public relations angle.

Later, the article gets to the real issue: are these stress tests designed to test the banks against realistically severe scenarios, or instead to throw up some soft balls to be hit hardly so as to restore (misplaced) confidence? Kudos to the writer for including this illuminating quote:
“This year’s tests still did not include the impact of a formal debt default by a European government, which is the single greatest risk facing the European banking sector at present,” Marie Diron, an economist who advises the consulting firm Ernst & Young, wrote in a note. “The publication of these results will not assuage investors’ fears over the resilience of the E.U. banking sector,” she wrote, referring to the European Union.