Policy brief

Is recent bank stress really driven by the sovereign debt crisis?

Ahead of the European Council meeting on 23 October, the author outlines how EU Heads of States should focus on restoring confidence in euro-area po

Publishing date
20 October 2011

Stress in the interbank market has increased dramatically since July and bank stock market valuation has fallen by 22 percent on average for 60 of the most important banks tested in the EBA stress tests.

I find evidence that bank stock valuation is significantly and economically meaningfully affected by the bank’s exposure to Greek debt. Greek banks are particularly affected. Holdings of debt of the other four periphery countries does not however appear to be a strong determinant of stock price movements. Policy announcements of 21 July of no haircut on any sovereign but Greece appear to be perceived as credible.

The exposure to Greece cannot explain the general and large decline in euro area banks’ market cap. Instead, a general confidence crisis of the euro area banking system, or more deeply the euro area construction, might be driving the fall in stock prices.

The summit of 23 October should focus on restoring confidence in euro-area policymakers’ ability and determination to put the euro area on a sound footing. Recapitalisation of banks can only be only one aspect. A credible solution to Greece and a way forward for the larger institutional set-up, including a federal fiscal back-stop of the banking system, are of at least equal importance.

About the authors

  • Guntram B. Wolff

    Guntram Wolff is the Director of Bruegel. Over his career, he has contributed to research on European political economy and governance, fiscal, monetary and financial policy, climate change and geoeconomics. Under his leadership, Bruegel has been regularly ranked among the top global think tanks and has grown in influence and impact with a team of now almost 40 recognized scholars and around 65 total staff. Bruegel is also recognized for its outstanding transparency.

    A recognized thought leader and academic, he regularly testifies at the European Finance Ministers' ECOFIN meeting, the European Parliament, the German Parliament (Bundestag) and the French Parliament (Assemblée Nationale). From 2012-16, he was a member of the French prime minister's Conseil d'Analyse Economique. In 2018, then IMF managing director Christine Lagarde appointed him to the external advisory group on surveillance to review the Fund’s priorities. In 2021, he was appointed to the G20 high level independent panel on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. He is also a professor (part-time) at the Solvay Brussels School of Université Libre de Bruxelles, where he teaches economics of European integration.

    He joined Bruegel from the European Commission, where he worked on the macroeconomics of the euro area and the reform of euro area governance. Prior to joining the Commission, he was coordinating the research team on fiscal policy at Deutsche Bundesbank. He also worked as an external adviser to the International Monetary Fund.

    He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Bonn and studied in Bonn, Toulouse, Pittsburgh and Passau. He taught economics at the University of Pittsburgh and at Université libre de Bruxelles. He has published numerous papers in leading academic journals. His columns and policy work are published and cited in leading international media and policy outlets. Guntram is fluent in German, English, French and has good notions of Bulgarian and Spanish.

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