James Moore: No wonder the banks are cheering the latest rules on their asset buffers

Outlook: US banks actually look in far better shape than some of their European rivals right now, and that's a relief

Have the Basel banking supervisors gone soft all of a sudden? That's one way of looking at their decision to ease the tough criteria on the amount of cash and easy-to-sell assets banks have to hold as a buffer in the event of a fresh crisis.

Such buffers are supposed to keep them from going under if lots of people withdraw their money, as with Northern Rock, or if wholesale funding markets dry up again.

But the character of the buffers has changed. Now, in addition to cash and government bonds, banks will be allowed to include other things, even some mortgages, within the pot, despite the fact that mortgages proved all but impossible to sell during the last financial crisis. What's more, the new softer rules won't apply until 2019, four years later than originally intended. It's worth noting that the biggest cheers were coming from banks in, you've guessed it, Spain and Italy yesterday.

Does it matter? When it comes to the new capital and liquidity requirements that the Basel supervisors want to impose, our banks largely comply now. They are much safer than they once were.

Take Barclays. At the end of 2004 it had a core tier one capital ratio – a measure of top quality assets held – of 4.7 per cent. After nine months of 2012, the figure stood at 11.2 per cent. Its pool of liquidity – easily saleable assets – ballooned from £19bn to £160bn over the same period.

Barclays, and its peers, might now be able to make a bit more of a return on the buffer assets they have to hold, which will please investors.

If easier rules lead to more lending, it will please nearly everyone.

The worry is that certain institutions will now backslide when it comes to making tough decisions. Such as some of those in Italy and Spain.

The bigger concern about Basel, however, is that it simply doesn't count in one very important part of the world. American banks haven't implemented parts of the overly weak Basel II accords yet. They're hardly thinking about the new ones (Basel III). We might argue that if that's the way American regulators want to go more fool them, and more fool the American taxpayer who will be on the hook if another big US bank goes bad.

US banks actually look in far better shape than some of their European rivals right now, and that's a relief. Because it won't just be US taxpayer who suffers if one of them blows up.

None of this tinkering changes the core problem with the world's megabanks: when all is said and done, they are still too big to fail.

This time Ladbrokes chief will get deal done

Bet on this: Richard Glynn is finally going to call time on his Grand Old Duke of York act when it comes to Ladbrokes doing deals.

On previous occasions when news of the bookie being in talks about buying an online betting business has leaked the company has had to put out statements confirming the stories, only to then walk away. But with the potential takeover of Betdaq, an online betting exchange, the smart money is on chief executive Mr Glynn getting the deal done. Ladbrokes, one of the most vocal critics of betting exchanges when Betfair emerged, will own one soon.

In theory, this makes sense. Betfair, the runaway market leader, could use some competition, and Ladbrokes will be able to offer its more sophisticated clients, those who want to play bookmaker by "laying" horses to lose, and who trade in and out of various betting markets, the chance to do this with Ladbrokes rather than Betfair.

In practice, it's going to be tough to make it work. Betfair is king because it has liquidity. If a Joe Smith wants to back Laddies Poker Two to win a race (there really is a horse bearing that name) through Betfair, the exchange will be almost always be able to match him with a Bill Jones who wants to "lay" it to lose. Smaller rival exchanges don't have enough customers to do that consistently and often have to sit on the other side of their clients' bets. Which makes life complicated.

Putting a real dent in Betfair's dominance would mean a brutal fight, and Ladbrokes needs to get its online offering right before going there. The real opportunity to move beyond its "traditional" bookmaking will come in a few years' time, when the Tote loses its monopoly on pool betting.

Morrisons needs to be bolder with prices

If you thought Morrisons had problems after yesterday's dismal sales figures, chew on this. Britain's number four grocer has turned to the two-headed monster of light entertainment in an attempt to boost its flagging sales. Yes, Ant and Dec are coming to a commercial break near you. Jamie Oliver's Sainsbury's ads may prove only mildly irritating by comparison.

The trouble is, while the cheeky Geordie chappies are bizarrely popular among certain sectors of the British public, they won't be able to persuade shoppers to come on down to their local Morrisons if the price isn't right. And compared to Lidl and Aldi, the price isn't right.

Much attention has been given to Morrisons' lack of an online grocery business, given the sector's rapid growth. But that growth hasn't been particularly profitable, and Morrisons can catch up. Plans for a rapid expansion of convenience stores, particularly within the M25, will arguably be of more tangible benefit.

However, Morrisons is still a very profitable business. More profitable than Sainsbury's, the sector darling. Profitable enough, perhaps, for chief executive Dalton Philips to be bold and sacrifice some of his margins in favour of getting aggressive on prices. The City might let him get away with such a move now. It probably won't in six months' time if the business keeps disappointing.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Guru Careers: Communications Exec / PR Exec

£25 - £30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a highly-motivated and ambitious Comm...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral