In these times of threatening depression, need to know to celebrate the good news. And the profits of banks are great news. Of course, it may seem unfair that billions accumulate in the coffers of the banks when millions of unemployed people accumulate at the entrance of pole job, when factories close by hundreds, when deficits become as deep as the Mariana Trench. And yet, this profitability is essential to all. A condition, of course, that its fruits are put in good pot of jam. This is where things get complicated...
First of all, the numbers. In France, the big banks have been 11 billion euros of profit in 2009. Two times more than in 2008, two times less than in 2007. At United Kingdom, the Barclays made almost as much as all the French met. And Wall Street remains at the Summit, with $ 55 billion. These amounts are less than the virtuosity of the bankers and monetary policy. Bringing virtually short term interest rates to zero to avoid asphyxiation of finance, central banks have lowered the cost of money, which is the subject first of banks. As they had very few passed this decline on their customers, they have been leap their margins. At first glance, this is outrageous. But it is necessary. Because the banks need terribly money to repair the damage of the last storm and to better face the next. And when they run out of money, they can no longer lend - what is their profession, as constantly remind all rulers of the planet.
The invoice of the financial tornado that culminated in the fall of 2008 totaled thousands of billions of dollars lost on banking assets. Last autumn, the international monetary Fund had estimated it to 2.800 billion over the period 2007-2010, including 800 billion for the euro area. It will review its evaluation to the decline in the next month, but the addition will remain heavy. The balance sheets of the bankers are damaged. The Americans would have covered more than half of those losses. The Europeans, they have not finished reveal case-sensitive, as demonstrated recently SociÃ©tÃ© GÃ©nÃ©rale with its 4 billion euros of losses on toxic assets in 2009. They have lot of money.
The thirst for banks does not stop there. Because the rules of the game will change. They will always lend much more that they have cash - this is the beauty of their craft. But they will have to be more cautious, more capital to lend as much. Their ratio of capital, own funds and commitments, will rise. It is a logical outcome of the g-20 summits. Logic... but expensive.
Be indulgent with our bankers friends: currently, they should really make a lot of money. As at the beginning of the 1990s, after the last financial crisis. But this money must remain in their walls or rather their balance sheets. It is intended neither to employees (more precisely to the bonus of traders) and managers or shareholders. However, if banks were chastened the flamboyance of the bonus, the amounts remain important-20 billion on Wall Street. Leaders spread in the newspapers by explaining that it is difficult to do less-, which could pass for a call to Governments to intervene. As Keynes, the financial "certainly enough love their craft so that their work can be obtained at much better market than today ' hui".
Side dividends, shareholders are reduced to the minimum portion 1.8 billion proposed for example in the General Assembly by BNP Paribas as of 2009, two times less than in 2006 or 2007. But the dividends paid by the 20 major banks American and European had tripled from 2000 to 2007. And in the United States, a home loss as Bank of America will still reward its shareholders this year. The Bank for international settlements, the famous "Bank for central banks" installed in Basel, believes that "number of banks were quick to restore dividends and payment of discretionary bonus that the banking system remains fragile". At the time, she developed the debate a proposal last December: a bank could pay bonuses or dividends if its capital ratio falls below a certain threshold. It would end its distribution as and as latitude that she raises its ratio above the threshold.
This is perhaps not the right solution. It can be circumvented, for example by replacing the bonus by an increase in wages fixed UI ' is already in progress. But it was in one way or another that banks affect the bulk of their profits to retype their balance sheets until they are strong. For carrying storm clouds remain many around them, the rise of the defects of individuals to doubts about the very abundant public obligations in their accounts through the uncertainty of us commercial real estate. In case of failure, a too generous Bank with its shareholders and its traders would be this time politically impossible to save.