While U.S. banks have some exposure to over-leveraged oil companies, the level of exposure to the distress energy industry is not up to the scale of the U.S. housing market that triggered the 2008 run. Nevertheless, market observers are weighing on the oil outlook in the recent earnings season.
The options market is also pointing to a sharp increase in the cost of insurance against a banking sector meltdown. Currently, options predict a worst-case scenario of a 28% plunge in financial stocks over the next three months, according to Myron Scholes and Ashwin Alankar, the options markets experts at the asset manager Janus Capital.
“I cannot identify a big source of risk,” Alankar told the financial times, “but the market is seeing something. I worry we could be missing something.”
On the other hand, the markets may be trying to discern shapes in the shadows where there are none, overreacting to the recent spate of economic weakness. For instance, banking analyst Mike Mayo argues that Wall Street banks are trading at “recession prices but no recession.” On a price-to-tangible book value, banks have dipped to levels below pre-financial crisis, and some bank stocks are now trading below book value.
Max Chen contributed to this article.