European banking shares bounce on Draghi bailout chatter

Jake Cordell
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Shares in UniCredit are down two-thirds over the last year
Shares in UniCredit are down two-thirds over the last year (Source: Getty)

For once, European banks may well be liking the cut of Mario Draghi's jib.

The Eurostoxx index of the Eurozone's top lenders has jumped by 1.3 per cent today after the European Central Bank (ECB) president put the pressure on EU politicians to push ahead with a bailout fund for troubled lenders.

Draghi, who has acknowledged the strain his negative interest rate policy places on banks, today signalled his support for some kind of "public backstop" to help prop up the continent's lenders.

In a press conference today, as the ECB kept its interest rates and €80bn-a-month quantitative easing package unchanged, Draghi said: "The public backstop is a measure that would be very useful and should be agreed with the Commission."

Read more: Italy's banks won't destroy the Eurozone - in the short term

The European Commission has been wrangling with Italian politicians in recent weeks over whether to allow a state-backed bailout of the country's banking sector. Analysts reckon Italian banks could have €360bn in near-worthless debt - or "non-performing loans" - equivalent to around fifteen per cent of their total balance sheets.

A hastily-cobbled together €5bn bailout fund, Atlante, funded by the banks, has failed to stop big sell-offs at the country's most important lenders. Around one-third of the fund was drained in its first rescue mission back in April after private investors rejected the chance to buy shares in Popular di Vicenza in an emergency share offering.

The package being considered by the EU, which could include money from the public purse as well as the private sector, would be much larger and could inject up to €40bn into the Italian banking sector.

Shares in Unicredit, Italy's biggest bank, were up four per cent to €2.34 today on the news.

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