U.S. planning to reveal data on health of top banks: report

The Obama administration is drawing up plans to disclose the financial condition of the 19 biggest banks in the country, the New York Times said, citing senior administration officials.

The administration has decided to reveal some sensitive details of the "stress tests" now being completed after concluding that keeping many of the findings secret could send investors fleeing from financial institutions rumored to be weakest, the paper said.

The stress tests, announced in February, were designed to see if banks are adequately capitalized. Banks that are found to need more money would then have six months to raise it, or take funds directly from the government in a new round of capital injections.

But government officials have been less than clear about how the details of the test results will be released.

The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve have asked banks not to discuss the exams publicly out of concern that information will trickle out inconsistently and create market chaos, a source familiar with the talks between the government and the banks told Reuters.

While all of the banks are expected to pass the tests, some are expected to be graded more highly than others, according to the paper.

Officials have deliberately left murky just how much they intend to reveal - or will encourage the banks to reveal - about how well the banks would weather difficult economic conditions over the next two years, according to the paper.

Indicating which banks are most vulnerable still runs some risk of doing what officials hope to avoid, the paper said. "The assessments are not yet complete," the paper cited Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for the Treasury, as saying. "When they are, we'll work with the banks on how best to release the appropriate data and on what time-frame to ensure fairness and minimize market uncertainty."

[Source: Reuters, Washington, 15Apr09]

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