It seems that analysts are tripping over themselves to come up with ever larger estimates for the total damage that the world's banks are going to sustain in the wake of writedowns associated with credit losses. The latest estimate, from UBS, estimates the bill will be at least $600-billion (U.S.) - bad news for markets that are already nervous about banks, the global economy, the impact of rising energy prices and, well, just about everything.
North American stock index futures pointed down before the start of trading. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average fell 102 points to 12,475. Futures for the broader S&P 500 fell 15.8 to 1350.
In Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 fell 1.1 per cent in afternoon trading there. Germany's DAX index fell 1.7 per cent. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 2.3 per cent in overnight trading.
In Canada, Royal Bank of Canada, reported first-quarter results on Friday morning that were not only 17 per cent lower than last year; they also came in well below analyst expectations. The consensus had expected the bank to produce $1.06 in earnings per share, but the figure was 97 cents.
Meanwhile, Statistics Canada reported that Canada's current account - for many years in surplus because of surging exported - dipped into negative territory in the fourth quarter for the first time since 1999. The surplus hit a high of $12.2-billion in 2006, but has now slumped to a deficit of $513-million, a bigger deficit than economists had been expecting. Blame it on the loonie.