NEW YORK (
) -- The European debt crisis will remain in focus in 2012 but concerns about a possible collapse of the euro and utter financial Armageddon have abated,
Co-CEO Jerry del Missier said on Thursday.
"The chance of a break-up of the Euro remains a very, very remote possibility," del Missier said, speaking at a "State of the Industry" briefing by
Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association
(SIFMA). del Missier is chairman of the trade group.
The executive said that Europe was off to a better start in 2012, thanks to measures taken by the European Central Bank in the final weeks of December to stabilize the financial markets in the region. Notably, the central bank's long-term financing operation had helped the region return to a more "stable" environment.
The move would allow for more long-term measures to take place including the deleveraging and recapitalization of European banks as well as the eventual fiscal consolidation of the member countries.
del Missier warned that there was still no "silver bullet" that would solve the crisis and that the markets must be prepared to accept "event risk" and "volatility" as the crisis plays out.
In the U.S. bank stocks have been leading the rally in the stock markets, as fewer negative headlines have emerged from Europe, while positive domestic economic data has buoyed sentiment. Shares of
Bank of America
(BAC - Get Report)
have gained more than 20% in the first two weeks of the year, while
(C - Get Report)
has climbed 18%. Sector favorite
(JPM - Get Report)
has gained 9%.
Banks came under severe selling pressure in 2011, weighed down by a weak economic outlook, regulatory pressures and macro-economic concerns emanating from Europe.
Fred Cannon, director of research at KBW, expects Europe to remain a focus for bank investors, even though some of the concerns about Europe have abated. "What we are seeing today is that all those austerity programs are beginning to hurt the European economy and not just the financial situation. That is the bad news. The good news is it looks like the U.S. economy is beginning to do ok. And that differentiation will make concerns about European exposures, in some ways, even greater because those European concerns could hinder the banks with that exposure," he said.
--Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York
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