The Big Bank Bloodbath: Losses Near Half a Trillion Dollars

Big banks are nearly half a trillion dollars in the hole.

Since the start of 2016, 20 of the world’s bigger banks have lost a quarter of their combined market value. Added up, it equals about $465 billion, according to FactSet data.

Brexit isn’t all to blame. True, bank stocks have plummeted since the U.K. voted last month to leave the European Union. But they have been losing value since the start of the year, when a group of factors—the Chinese economy, the path of U.S. interest rates, oil prices—weighed on the markets.

More than pride is at stake. Sharp share-price falls will make it much more difficult, and expensive, for banks to raise capital if that is what is ultimately needed to shore up their balance sheets.

Just as bad, a serious decline in market value can breed inaction among bank executives. Instead of selling equity when they can, executives may wait for share prices to recover, only to find themselves in a worse situation as stocks drop even further.

Another potential worry: As bank share prices decline, employees get antsy. Compensation packages that include stock options or restricted stock suddenly become a lot less attractive.

To get a handle on the severity of 2016 for banks, The Wall Street Journal examined the biggest U.S., U.K. and Swiss banks, some of the biggest European ones, as well as the biggest bank in each of China and Japan.

The group included: J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. JPM, +0.67% Wells Fargo & Co. WFC, +0.46%  , Bank of America Corp. BAC, +0.99%  , Citigroup Inc. C, +1.12%  , Goldman Sachs Group GS, +1.13%  , Morgan Stanley MS, +0.47%  , Royal Bank of Scotland PLC RBS, +5.00%  , HSBC Holdings HSBC, +1.93%  , Barclays PLC BARC, +3.27%  , Standard Chartered PLC STAN, +0.39%  , UBS Group AG UBS, +2.45%  , Credit Suisse Group AG CS, +2.09%  , BNP Paribas SA BNP, +0.85%  , Credit Agricole SA ACA, +0.77%  , Société Générale SA GLE, +1.18%  , UniCredit SpA UCG, -3.78%  , Deutsche Bank AG DTE, +0.40%  , Banco Santander SA SAN, +0.77%  , Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. 8306, +4.15%

Read the full Wall Street Journal article here.