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Europe’s Fitful Financial Integration

LONDON – The well-publicized troubles of Portugal’s Banco Espírito Santo this summer have reminded us that the eurozone’s financial problems are by no means resolved. There are, no doubt, idiosyncratic factors behind the bank’s problems, stemming from its exposure to other parts of the Espírito Santo family’s empire. But when the bank announced a first-half loss of €3.6 billion ($4.7 billion), the sudden collapse of confidence was alarming, and nervous investors are asking whether there are similar time bombs ticking elsewhere.

All eyes are now on the European Central Bank’s asset quality review, due to be completed in the next couple of months. The AQR is the key element in a “comprehensive assessment” of Europe’s banks before the ECB formally takes on supervisory responsibility for more than 80% of the eurozone banking system in November.