Bank shares across Europe have opened steadily after HSBC results

Jake Cordell
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HSBC posted a 29 per cent fall in profits, but the sector has opened higher in early morning trading
HSBC posted a 29 per cent fall in profits, but the sector has opened higher in early morning trading (Source: Getty)

European banks have stopped the rot after two days of dramatic selling across the continent, as a share buyback at HSBC helped buoy investor sentiment.

The UK's largest listed lender reported a steeper-than-expected 29 per cent fall in profits, but intends to snap up around $2.5bn (£1.9bn) of its own shares and maintain its dividend. The announcement helped lift the bank to the top of the FTSE 100 with a 3.9 per cent climb in the first few minutes of trading.

The rest of the UK's top banks were all broadly flat in a quiet news day ahead of a crucial Bank of England interest rate decision tomorrow.

Across the continent it was a little bit more choppy. The Eurostoxx banking index of the top 30 Eurozone lenders was up by 1.5 per cent today, following a 4.5 per cent slide yesterday. Some of the more troubled names, such as Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse - which were yesterday ejected from the Eurostoxx 50, a different index focused on all European firms - were down again this morning.

Monte dei Paschi's roller coaster ride continues. Part of it is the fact that when your shares are worth cents not euros even a small movement looks big in percentage terms, but that will not calm nerves over the future of the troubled bank. Shares were up one cent this morning after a bruising five cents tumble yesterday.

Trading in Unicredit also seems to be a bit quieter this morning as Italy's largest bank chalked up a small gain in the first hour. Analysts put the turmoil on Monday and Tuesday down to the slow-burn fallout of the results of the European Banking Authority's stress tests into the health of the sector.

Read more: Bank of England stress tests are "worse than useless"

The calm may not last for long, however, with the Bank of England gearing up to slash interest rates tomorrow. Low interest rates are bad news for lenders as it squeezes their net interest rates - the difference between the interest they pay on deposits and receive on loans.

Mark Carney has signalled he is aware of the trouble posed by the low interest rate environment and may couple any further cuts with an extension of cheap loans for banks to ensure lending does not dry up.

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