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Half of the world’s ‘too big to fail’ banks are in a bear market

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A sign is posted in front of a Citibank office on April 13, 2018 in Mill Valley, California. -- AFP

If a bear market is considered failing in equities, then half of the “too big to fail” financial institutions across the globe aren’t succeeding.

There are 30 banks that qualify as systemically important financial institutions ( SIFI), according to the Financial Stability Board’s most recent list. Half have seen their stocks fall at least 20% from the most recent peaks, according to a Bloomberg analysis. Notably, no large U.S.-based banks make the list.

The pain has been felt most acutely in Europe, where weaker economic data has been turning heads of late. The region’s central bank is expected to signal an end to its stimulus program when it meets Thursday, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said last month that its indicators point to slowing growth in the euro area.

Prominent market observers, from Harvard University economist Carmen Reinhart to Allianz SE’s Mohamed El-Erian, also have been sounding the alarm on emerging markets.

“It would be hard to put together a bull case for European financials if you think the economy is going the other way,” said Mike Bailey, director of research at FBB Capital Partners in Bethesda, Maryland. “You’ve got kind of a double whammy where the economy is kind of flattish or worsening, and then you’re seeing the central bank still easing. You don’t have the light at the end of the tunnel for rate hikes, which would help them.”

Meanwhile in the U.S., recent economic data has painted a Goldilocks picture and the Federal Reserve is expected to raise rates for the second time this year. Although none of the SIFIs that have fallen into a bear market are U.S. banks, some aren’t far from the 20% drop.

Citigroup Inc., another designated SIFI, isn’t in a bear market, but it could be headed there, according to Matt Maley, an equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. From its January highs, the stock is down more than 15%, and it’s struggled to break above its 200-day moving average. According to Maley, if Citigroup breaks through its recent low of $66, it could confirm that the bank’s price trend is downward.

“We’d be a lot more concerned if this ‘negative potential’ was facing JPM instead of Citi, but the under-performance of these global banks (and their European counterparts) is not getting enough attention right now,” Maley wrote in an email to clients Wednesday.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is down about 7.5% since reaching a high on Feb. 26. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. are both down around 15% from their respective peaks. — Bloomberg