New global rules aim to keep banks strong

Capital reserve policies need OK of governments



BASEL, Switzerland --- Global financial regulators agreed Sunday on new rules designed to strengthen bank finances and rein in excessive risk-taking to help prevent another crisis.

Banks will be forced to hold more and safer kinds of capital to offset the risks they take lending money and trading securities, which should make them more resistant to financial shocks such as those of recent years.

European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet, the chairman of the committee of central bankers and bank supervisors that worked on the new rules, called the agreement "a fundamental strengthening of global capital standards."

"Their contribution to long-term financial stability and growth will be substantial," Trichet said in a statement.

In a joint statement, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other U.S. officials called the standards a "significant step forward in reducing the incidence and severity of future financial crises."

However, some banks have protested that the rules might hurt their profitability and cause them to reduce the lending that fuels economic growth.

Representatives of major central banks, including the ECB and the U.S. Federal Reserve, agreed to the deal at a meeting in Basel on Sunday. The deal still has to be presented to leaders of the Group of 20 forum of rich and developing countries at a meeting in November and ratified by national governments before it comes into force.

The agreement, known as Basel III, is seen as a cornerstone of the global financial reforms proposed by governments after the credit crunch and subsequent economic downturn caused by risky banking practices.

Earlier this year the Brussels-based European Banking Federation warned that the new global rules forcing banks to put aside more capital could keep the eurozone economy in or close to recession through 2014.

The federation said its analysis showed that new standards would prevent the creation of up to 5 million jobs in the 16 nations that use the euro.