ECONOMY

Banks’ income from financial operations set to decline in Q2

Financial operations are expected to contribute to a reduced share of bank profits in the second quarter of the year due to the prevailing uncertainty in global markets. Extrapolating from the data available from the first half of the second quarter, the managers of the large banks – National, Alpha, EFG Eurobank, Emporiki and Piraeus – agree that financial operations will not produce the high yields seen in the first quarter. The expected rise in interest rates, the rise in oil prices and geopolitical uncertainties create an especially complex mixture that significantly affects markets and increases volatility in bonds and stocks. Market conditions do not allow banks’ dealing rooms to stake out big positions, bank managers told Kathimerini. The prevailing strategy advocates caution, avoidance of investment and a wait-and-see strategy until market trends become apparent. Volatility and the contradictory views of investors usually create good opportunities for short-term profit. However, this implies increased risk, which runs counter to the policy of domestic banks. We should note that the dealing rooms are not operating independently but within the bounds of the limited risk banks are willing to undertake, and their moves are constantly monitored. The fact that market conditions are far from ideal does not imply losses for all investors. The banks which took «counter-positions,» betting, for example, on interest rates rising, have every reason to be satisfied. Again, however, counter-positions imply high risk and few banks are willing to risk any but a very small fraction of their available reserves on them. Of course, more than a month remains until the end of the second quarter and market conditions may change drastically. But bank managers are not betting on it. In the previous quarter, revenues from bond, stock or currency transactions accounted for 11.9 percent of the total revenues of Alpha Bank, 10.4 percent for Bank of Piraeus, 8.4 percent for National Bank, 7.8 percent for Emporiki Bank’s and 7.7 percent for EFG Eurobank Ergasias. Thus, a decline in such revenues does not overly concern bankers, due to their relatively small input. The bulk of revenues comes from retail banking operations and continuing credit expansion, which, along with efforts to contain operational costs, ensure that revenues will remain high.