As market turmoil battered the stocks of the world's top 100 financial services companies, U.S. institutions managed to retain their leading share of the group's market capitalization.
The new BankAmerica Corp. and Citigroup ranked first and second globally on Sept. 30. Overall, U.S. banks, thrifts, brokerages, insurers, and other financial firms held 44 of the top 100 spots in an American Banker survey.
But the survey revealed gaping market-value losses from March through September resulting from the economic meltdowns in Asia and Russia-and the still spreading consequences.
During the second and third quarters the largest financial companies worldwide lost a collective $635 billion of market value in six months,a 21.7% declineto $2.3 trillion on Sept. 30. (Complete results are on page 34.)
Financial stocks in the United States and Europe have recovered since the Federal Reserve began lowering interest rates on Sept. 29, but the searing midyear market experience has left investors wary, particularly amid growing signs of economic slowdown.
"August was the worst month," said Brent Erensel, a foreign-bank analyst at Warburg Dillon Read.
One of the harshest blows-a nearly 40% dive in value-was felt by Japanese financial firms, as government and business leaders searched for an effective means of resuscitating that nation's deeply troubled banking sector.
But the devastation was global, with commercial banks suffering by far the most damage. The 58 banks among the top 100 financial firms plummeted 26% in value. In contrast, the 28 insurers on the roster dropped less than half as far, with a 12% loss.
Banks were notably exposed to the storm that lashed emerging-market nations in Asia and elsewhere with plunging currencies, soaring interest rates, and economic havoc. Global markets reeled as risk premiums rose to reflect heightened uncertainty.
"Risk premiums get reflected in interest rates, and banks are interest- sensitive," said Mr. Erensel, who focuses on Latin American banking. "Banks also hold investment securities and equities, so rates affect not only the valuation of banks' own stocks but the value of the investment securities they hold."
Top global banks and financial companies have since bounced off their lows and recaptured market value on prospects of even lower rates, but HSBC Securities economist L. Douglas Lee remains cautious. "While markets are marginally better," he said, "there are no signs that the international economic outlook has begun to improve."
U.S. institutions accounted for eight of the top 10 financial companies in the world on Sept. 30, reflecting the round of huge American bank mergers earlier this year, as well as the safe-haven status of the U.S. stock market in tumultuous times.
The global rankings reflect the pro forma market capitalization of some mergers completed after Sept. 30.
The new BankAmerica, paired with the former NationsBank Corp., was the largest global financial institution on Sept. 30, with $93.2 billion of market capitalization, down 26.6% from March 31.
Citigroup, the combination of Citicorp and Travelers Group, ranked second. It was valued by investors at $85.5 billion, down 34.1% from six months earlier.
American International Group, the giant insurer based in New York, was third with a value of $82.3 billion, off 13.9%.
The largest non-U.S. financial company was Germany's Allianz A.G. Holding. Allianz, an insurer based in Munich, was also the largest global financial concern to enjoy a gain in value over the past six months, up 3.5% to $75.4 billion.
Moving to fifth from ninth place was Fannie Mae, the huge secondary mortgage finance firm based in Washington. It was assessed by investors at $65.9 billion, down 7.7% from last March.
The other non-U.S. firm in the top 10, ranking sixth, was Britain's Lloyd's TSB Group, valued by the marketplace at $60.8 billion, down 27.8% from last spring.
Joining the global top 10 were the new Wells Fargo & Co. of San Francisco in the seventh spot and First Union Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., in eighth place.
Wells, which just completed its merger with Norwest Corp. of Minneapolis, was valued at $57.5 billion, up 7.2% from last March. First Union's market capitalization was $52.2 billion, down 7.9%.
In the ninth spot on Sept. 30 was the new Bank One Corp., Chicago, recent offspring of Banc One of Columbus, Ohio, and First Chicago NBD Corp. Its value was $49.7 billion, down 32.9% from a half year earlier.