Senior analysts and traders warned of impending bank failures as a summit intended to solve the European crisis failed to deliver a solution that eased concerns over bank funding.
The European Central Bank admitted it had held meetings about providing emergency funding to the region's struggling banks, however City figures said a "collateral crunch" was looming.
"If anyone thinks things are getting better then they simply don't understand how severe the problems are. I think a major bank could fail within weeks," said one London-based executive at a major global bank.
Many banks, including some French, Italian and Spanish lenders, have already run out of many of the acceptable forms of collateral such as US Treasuries and other liquid securities used to finance short-term loans and have been forced to resort to lending out their gold reserves to maintain access to dollar funding.
"The system is creaking. There is a large amount of stress," said Anthony Peters, a strategist at Swissinvest, pointing to soaring interbank lending rates.
CreditSights' weekly funding report said the ECB had effectively become the central clearer for the region's banks as lenders are increasingly distrustful about funding one another.
Bank deposits with the ECB now stand at their highest level since June 2010 at €905bn (£772bn) as lenders withdraw deposits held with their peers and put them into the central bank. At the same time, banks in major eurozone countries such as France and Italy have become increasingly reliant on central bank funding. This follows the trend seen in smaller countries like Ireland where lenders have effectively becomes taxpayer-funded "zombie" banks.
Alastair Ryan, a banks analyst at UBS, said there would be "no Lehman moment" – or single catastrophic event – for the European banking sytem, but added that without a full backstop of bank liabilities by governments the system would "struggle to finance itself in the next year in a durable way".
"The system at the moment hasn't got funding of a duration that allows it to function, so it's failing," he said.
Others think the eurozone banks are heading for a catastrophe and the worry is growing that a major bank could collapse within weeks.
The results of the fourth round of European Banking Authority (EBA) stress tests conducted in just under 18 months pointed to a €115bn capital shortfall in the eurozone financial system, with German banks showing the most notable deterioration in their core capital ratios.
Moody's on Friday downgraded France's three largest banks, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole and Societe Generale in light of what the US rating agency said were "liquidity and funding constraints". The banks' downgrade came despite Moody's acknowledging the three lenders could depend on a higher level of French taxpayer support in future.
Two weeks ago, rumours abounded that it was the near failure of a major French lender that had been the trigger for a massive co-ordinated intervention by the world's largest central banks to shore up the banking system.
The fear is the European authorities do not have the financial firepower to deal with the banks' problems. Analysts at BarCap say that even if the European rescue funds were able to raise €1 trillion of funding this would only meet the needs of the Italian and Spanish government and banks.
The European banking sector's problems are being exacerbated by a wave of asset sales as lenders look to dramatically shrink their balance sheets. UBS estimates eurozone banks could sell off between €3.7 trillion and €4.5 trillion of assets in the next three years....
Markets and governments face an uphill struggle to fund themselves next year amid extreme uncertainty over the eurozone and the global economy, as new figures reveal that the borrowing of industrialised governments has surged beyond $19tr this year and is forecast to grow further in 2012.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which represents the leading industrialised nations, will warn in its latest borrowing outlook, due to be published this month, that financial stresses are likely to continue with the “animal spirits” of the markets – their unpredictable nature – a threat to the stability of many governments that need to refinance debt.
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$19 trillion in additional borrowing for this year alone .... it stagger the mind but what staggers it even more will be the interest payments if interest rates should start to rise.....