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German EcoMin attacks banks’ risk-taking

Banks’ cautious approach to lending money is completely at odds with their appetite for buying risky securities, Germany’s Economy Minister Michael Glos said in a newspaper interview published on Thursday.

Glos told German business daily Handelsblatt it would be unwise to be too hasty in imposing new regulations on the financial sector, but noted lenders may have relied too heavily on credit rating agencies to make risk assessments for them. “It’s completely incomprehensible to me that banks only grant companies loans under strict conditions, but at the same time blithely buy risky securities whose intrinsic value obviously hasn’t been properly assessed,” he told the paper.

The extent to which the securities were bought was often out of all proportion to the size of the banks concerned, he added. Turmoil erupted in financial markets last summer after it emerged many banks had invested in asset-backed securities that were much riskier, than ratings agencies had advised. “The financial crisis has reached a point where we need co-ordination between governments, central banks and commercial banks,” Glos said. “It’s important that bankers in Germany and the rest of the world learn from their mistakes in the crisis.” The United States has been hit particularly hard by the financial unrest, and Glos said that Germany was likely to be affected if the world’s biggest economy went into recession. “However, the fact is Germany is no longer so susceptible to phases of weak growth in the United States,” he added.

A survey on Wednesday showed corporate morale in Germany rose in March to its highest level in seven months, prompting a number of analysts to say Europe’s largest economy is increasingly resistant to problems in the United States. (Reuters)