The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.



) -- There is a lot of talk about bank contagion and exposures resulting from the Eurozone crisis. There is much less talk about the high unemployment rates and other hardships being forced on the weaker Eurozone countries by the ECB/IMF cadre. But for now, let's focus on bank contagion and exposure. What do we know?

Data from the latest quarterly report of the Bank for International Settlements on "foreign claims" are presented in Table 1. The creditor countries are presented in the left hand column. So for example, France's foreign claim total for the five listed debtor countries is $681 billion.

But what do these numbers really mean? And how seriously would defaults impact the banks in the creditor nations. To answer this question, it would be useful to have bank deposit totals for the creditor nations. Why? Because we know that for any given deposit amount, banks are required to hold a certain percent of assets. Any significant reduction in assets (such as would result from a default) can create problems.

In the following tables, I use deposit totals of Euro area residents from

the European Central Bank for Euro area countries. For the UK, I use Bank of England deposits data, and for the U.S., I use FDIC deposit data. Table 2 provides data on foreign claims percent share of deposits for all creditor countries. These figures are indicative of the reserve requirement hit the banks of each country would take if any debtor country announced a 100% default.

Along with "Foreign Claims," the Bank for International Statistics provides one other data set in -- "Other Potential Exposures." This ominous sounding entry includes derivatives contracts, guarantees extended, and credit commitments. Table 3 indicates what happens to the deposit percentage when Other Potential Exposures are added to Foreign Claims.

It is notable how much the U.S. numbers jump when Other Potential Exposures are added.


I offer no interpretation on these numbers, beyond saying that I understand why the Eurozone leaders are worried.

Elliott Morss is an economic consultant and an individual investor in developing countries. He has taught at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Boston University, among other schools. Morss worked at the International Monetary Fund and helped establish Development Alternatives Inc. He has co-written six books and published more than four dozen articles in professional journals.