Basel regulators say determined to finalize bank rules

LONDON (Reuters) - Global banking regulators said they had narrowed their differences over a suite of new capital rules for banks and remain determined to finish the work, but did not give a date when it would be completed.

The Basel Committee of banking supervisors from the world’s leading financial centers has been working on the rules to help strengthen banks in the wake of the 2007-2009 financial crisis. It had hoped to complete them in January, but failed to agree on a key element known as the output floor.

The rules aim ensure banks are consistent in the way they assess risks from loans and determine the size of their capital reserves. The output floor acts as a backstop to ensure a minimum level of capital.

“While the finalization of Basel III will take longer than originally expected, the Committee remains determined to reach agreement on the remaining elements, and recognizes the importance of providing clarity and certainty to all market participants,” committee chairman Stefan Ingves said in a statement on Thursday at the end of a two-day meeting.

Basel members had said the delay was because U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration needed to appoint a new Federal Reserve official responsible for banking supervision.

The new U.S. official, due to be in place from April, would help to formulate U.S. policy towards the new rules and sit on Basel’s oversight body, which needs to approve them.

Trump has ordered a review of U.S. banking regulation, saying the current rules - some based on Basel’s existing standards - are holding back lending to the economy.

Ingves, who is also governor of Sweden’s central bank, said committee members had reiterated their broad support for the key features of the reforms, known as Basel III, which represent the main global regulatory response to the financial crisis.

Ingves said the main elements of the reforms were still in the package: the risk-weighted asset framework, the leverage ratio framework and the output floor.

“The differences, where they remain, have narrowed and work continues to reach an agreement,” Ingves said.

The final rules, if approved, are expected to be diluted after the European Union said it would not apply an initial version as it would force European banks to hold more capital than U.S. rivals.

Additional reporting by Zurich bureau; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Jane Merriman