At HSBC, the talk was of higher provisioning. It set aside provisions of pounds 615m, more than double 1996's allocation.
And if that were not enough, Abbey National, one of the stars of the retail sector, raised concern when it talked of pressure on its core business of mortgages.
It looks dangerously as if the bull market in financial stocks has reached the end of the line. It will be difficult to argue that the sector can recover the loss of sentiment in a matter of a few months; if anything, it is likely to worsen. Finally, the talk of merger - between Barclays and NatWest, more recently between Barclays and Standard Chartered, look over-egged. UK competition authorities would almost certainly can a Barclays- NatWest tie-in, while ironically, Standard Chartered, which produced glittering figures, looks set to enjoy its independence for a little while longer.Reuse content