by Joseph Calandro Jr.
As several articles over the past few days have indicated (here, here, here and here), Italy is on the brink of a full-blown banking crisis. Bad debts, or “non-performing loans,” held by the banking sector total 360 billion euros, which is a remarkable 17 percent of all the outstanding bank loans in Italy and equal to about one-fifth of the annual Italian GDP. It is also many times the level of bad debt held by Italian banks at the peak of the financial crisis in 2008. Since the beginning of 2016, prices of bank stocks have decreased by more than 50%. In the case of Italy’s oldest and most troubled bank, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, its share price has declined more than 75%. It doesn’t help that the Italian economy is struggling mightily to recover from the last financial crisis and is still 8% smaller than it was in 2008 and roughly the same size as it was at the end of the twentieth century.