Unclogging Euro Area Bank Lending

By Will Kerry and Jean Portier

A year ago our research showed Europe had an €800 billion stock of bad loans.  In our latest Global Financial Stability Report we show that the problem has now grown to more than €900 billion.  This stock of nonperforming loans is concentrated in the hardest hit economies, with two-thirds located in just six euro area economies. The European Central Bank’s Asset Quality Review  confirmed this picture, which revealed that the majority of banks in many of these economies had high levels of nonperforming assets (see chart 1).

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Making Small Beautiful Again: The Challenge of SME Problem Loans in Europe

By Yan Liu, Kenneth Kang, Dermot Monaghan, and Wolfgang Bergthaler

Six years after the global financial crisis, Europe continues to be weighed down by high levels of corporate debt and millions of nonperforming loans. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) bear a disproportionately heavy burden. Their nonperforming loan ratios are on average more than double those of their larger corporate cousins. This is worrisome. SMEs are the lifeblood of the European economy, comprising 99 percent of all businesses and employing nearly two of every three workers in Europe. Given the importance of smaller businesses to the economy, addressing their problem loans could lay the foundation for a more robust and sustainable economic recovery.

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What a Drag: The Burden of Nonperforming Loans on Credit in the Euro Area

By Will Kerry, Jean Portier, Luigi Ruggerone and Constant Verkoren 

High and rising levels of nonperforming loans in the euro area have burdened bank balance sheets and acted as a drag on bank profits. Banks, striving to maintain provisions to cover bad loans, have had fewer earnings to build-up their capital buffers. This combination of weak profits and a decline in the quality of bank assets, resulting in tighter lending standards, has created challenging conditions when it comes to new lending.

We took a closer look at this relationship and the policies to help fix the problem in our latest Global Financial Stability Report because credit is the grease that helps the economy function.

The stock of nonperforming loans has doubled since the start of 2009 and now stands at more than €800 billion for the euro area as whole (see chart). Around 60 percent of these nonperforming loans stem from the corporate loan book.

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Debt Hangover: Nonperforming Loans in Europe’s Emerging Economies

By Christoph Rosenberg and Christoph Klingen

Some hangovers take more than a good night’s sleep to get over. It’s been three years since the global economic crisis put an abrupt end to emerging Europe’s credit boom, but neither lenders nor borrowers are in much of a party mood. One key reason: many of the loans so readily dished out before the crisis have now gone sour.

Festering bad loans are a problem on many fronts:  banks, credit supply, economic growth, and people all suffer. Take Japan’s lost decade. There too, a credit boom ended in tears, new lending subsequently went from too much to too little, and a vicious cycle of credit squeeze, declining asset and collateral values, and economic paralysis followed.

In emerging Europe, the share of loans classified as nonperforming—many of them household mortgages—have exploded from 3 percent before the crisis to 13 percent at the peak. As can be seen in the chart below, levels in some parts of the Baltics and Balkans are already at par with previous financial crises elsewhere.

Tackling bad loans

Nobody wants this dire script to replay in emerging Europe. Policymakers, bankers, and international financial institutions therefore got together under the Vienna Initiative to identify ways to tackle nonperforming loans. A working group co-chaired by the IMF and World Bank just presented a report that analyzes the problem and offers a way out.

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No End in Sight: Early Lessons on Crisis Management

By Stijn Claessens and Ceyla Pazarbasioglu

(Version in Español)

Crises are like stories; they have a beginning, middle, and an end, and on occasion, we learn something along the way.

In times of crisis, choices must be made. In the most recent global economic crisis policymakers moved quickly to stabilize the system, providing massive financial support, which is the right response in the beginning of any crisis. But that only treated the symptoms of the global financial meltdown, and now a rare opportunity is being thrown away to tackle the underlying causes.

Without restructuring financial institutions’ balance sheets and their operations, as well as their assets ‒ loans to over-indebted households and enterprises ‒ the economic recovery will suffer, and the seeds will be sown for the next crisis. Continue reading

Reviving Credit Growth in the Caucasus and Central Asia: What Can Policymakers Do?

By Masood Ahmed

The global financial crisis has led to mounting stress in the banking systems of most countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Private sector credit growth has slowed sharply and even turned negative in real terms in a number of countries, compared with the dramatic increases, ranging from 40 to 80 percent in the period immediately prior to the crisis. The credit slowdown is weighing on economic activity and having policymakers seek ways to restore it, thereby laying the foundation for a resumption in high and sustainable economic growth.

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Downturn After Boom: Slow Credit Growth in Middle East, North Africa

By Masood Ahmed

In the midst of an early and uncertain economic recovery from the global crisis, countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have been experiencing a sharp slowdown in the growth of credit to the private sector, by about 30 percentage points on average relative to precrisis peak rates.

For many sectors, firms, and households that depend on bank financing, this slowdown may be forcing them to scale back their spending plans, or to resort to scarce or costly alternative avenues for financing. Slow credit growth may therefore be constraining the strength of the recovery in the short run, in addition to limiting prospects for longer-term growth. Policymakers are understandably concerned.

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