Tuesday, October 7, 2008

EU says to relax mark-to-market accounting rules

Banks in the European Union will be allowed to skirt an accounting rule blamed by critics for exacerbating the impact of the credit crunch and triggering fire sales of assets, EU president France said on Tuesday.

EU finance ministers agreed to change how the mark-to-market rule is applied in the third quarter so that European banks are treated in the same way as their U.S. competitors in the face of the worst financial crisis in 80 years.
Under U.S. accounting rules, banks in rare circumstances can move an asset from their trading book, where assets are valued on a mark-to-market basis, to their bank book, where assets are held to maturity and valued at cost.

The U.S. authorities formally encouraged this last week to ease the pain on banks facing an uphill task to recapitalise.

"In accounting, the American groups are authorised to transfer assets from their trading book, where they evaluate assets at mark-to-market," said Christine Lagarde, finance minister for France, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

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