Europe pushed to produce its own rescue plans
Three major lenders were rescued on Monday as the global credit crisis spread.
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The collapse of three big lenders in Britain and Western Europe amplified concern over a domino effect across global banks, and gave rise to a new key question: Will Europe follow America's lead in underwriting its teetering banking sector?
In effect, it already has on a case-by-case basis. Governments in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg were forced to intervene Monday to rescue banks, plowing billions of taxpayers' dollars into two failing institutions.
The part-nationalization of the Dutch-Belgian Fortis and Britain's eighth-largest bank, Bradford and Bingley, demonstrated that Europe's leaders are no less resolute than their American counterparts when it comes to bank rescues, and even the expectation of Congressional approval of a $700 billion US bailout (which failed to pass Monday afternoon) did not helped bank balance sheets.
"The cocktail of news hasn't been optimistic," says Richard Hunter, a market analyst with stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown. "There are other factors at play in terms of what's happening with Fortis and Bradford and Bingley, so [the US bailout] certainly is not the panacea that some people were hoping for."
He adds that in its current form, the US bailout still leaves room for uncertainty, including how long the bailout will last and how quickly the funds will be released.
Justin Urquhart Stewart, director of Seven Investment Management in London, adds: "There is a realization that $700 billion doesn't solve anything but just buys us time." And it should give investors pause. He notes that the price tag is equivalent to the gross domestic product of a medium-sized nation. "You could buy the Netherlands for that, and get a free tulip thrown in," he says.
Other market watchers say the impending US bailout is not getting a warm reception in the global markets "because of the way politicians used it as a parade or an opportunity for Congress to steal some limelight," says Mike Lenhoff, a strategist with Brewin Dolphin, a brokerage firm in London. "It's been an anticlimax, but now that it's on the runway, when Congress approves it, it will help markets."