Cyprus money woes, Italian bank’s $4.1B loss bring new fears about Europe finances

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Customers of an Italian bank have seen deposits fall by “a few billion euros” after a scandal in February, the bank announced Saturday.

According to Reuters, Monte dei Paschi bank reported a yearly loss of 3.2 billion euros ($4.1 billion) – a  higher-than-expected net loss for 2012 – after loss-making derivatives trades at the lender amounting to 730 million euros.  Bad loans also contributed to the loss.  

The bank’s chief financial officer said after the earnings were released on Thursday that it was “quick in recovering ground in March” on the lost deposits in February.

The figures highlight the scale of the problems at Italy’s third-biggest lender, which received a 4 billion euro ($5.1 billion) state bailout last month, according to Reuters.

The news of Monte dei Paschi comes as a deal to rescue Cyprus banks from financial collapse has renewed fears about Europe’s shaky financial system.

Many banks across Europe have been struggling for more than three years as losses on government bonds and bad loans piled up. Some governments, meanwhile, have taken on more debt trying to prop up their lenders to the point where they have needed bailing out themselves.

In Cyprus’s case, its banking sector became much bigger than the country’s government could afford to rescue — seven times the size of the country’s economy. When the banks were hit by large losses and Cyprus could not afford to bail it out on its own, the country turned to the other 16 European Union countries that use the euro.

Rather than making Europe’s taxpayers foot the entire bill for bad banking, Cyprus and the other eurozone countries agreed to make the banks’ bondholders and big depositors contribute to the rescue. One bank, Laiki, is to be split up, with its nonperforming loans and toxic assets going into a “bad bank.” The healthy side will be absorbed into the Bank of Cyprus. Savers with more 100,000 euros in both Bank of Cyprus and Laiki will face big losses — possibly as much as 80 cents on the euro.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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