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Low Interest Rate Environment and Bank Profitability in the Eurozone

Aurélien Leroy * Maître de conférences, Laboratoire d'analyse et de recherche en économie et finance internationales (LAREFI), Université de Bordeaux. Contact :
Yannick Lucotte ** Maître de conférences, Laboratoire d'Économie d'Orléans (LEO), Université d'Orléans ; professeur affilié, Paris School of Business. Contact :

The monetary policy conducted by the European Central Bank (ECB) over the past decade and the demographic and structural changes in our societies have led the economies of the eurozone towards an environment of persistently low interest rates. While the latter has made possible to avoid deflation, it is also a source of concern for the banking sector. However, even though the marked flattening of the interest rate curve may have sharply compressed the intermediation margin of some commercial banks in the euro zone, the decline in the interest margin observed in France in recent years appears to be relatively contained. Moreover, the effect of low rates on profitability is more than uncertain. Indeed, low rates will asymmetrically affect the main components of bank profitability. In particular, improved macroeconomic conditions and lower loan loss provisions can be expected to offset the contraction in interest income. The empirical exercise conducted in this article on a sample of large listed euro area banks shows that the easing of monetary policy has had a positive effect on the economic profitability of banks.

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