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January 20, 2012

After Banks' Earnings, Not Much More Clarity on Europe Exposure

With big banks’ earnings season nearly over, details on their European debt exposure remain incomplete—and it doesn’t look to clear up until annual reports are filed, if ever.

Disclosures varied widely among the banks reporting results over the past week. Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. included detailed tables with their earnings reports sorting out the numbers by region or country including their various hedging strategies.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., on the other hand, didn’t include any details in their earnings releases. Instead, executives addressed questions during their conference calls.

The divergence follows a recent warning from the Securities and Exchange Commission that information on European exposure was inconsistently disclosed in banks’ quarterly filings with the agency and asked them to consider providing a detailed breakdown. Regulators also want to know how gross exposures are hedged through instruments such as credit-default swaps.

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