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Bank cost-to-income ratios improve in Americas amid worldwide split

Banks around the world showed mixed progress in their 2018 cost-to-income ratios, with the majority of countries in the Americas showing improvement, while most of those in the Middle East and Africa deteriorated, data collected by S&P Global Market Intelligence shows.

The cost-to-income ratio, which measures operating expense as a percentage of operating income, is used to gauge efficiency and productivity for banks. Lower ratios generally indicate higher efficiency, but a number of factors can affect the ratio, including a bank's business model and size.

Read more:

* Asia-Pacific: Major Chinese banks score high in efficiency among Asia-Pacific lenders

* Europe: German banks lag European competitors in efficiency ranking; Nordics lead

* Latin America: LatAm banks' cost-to-income ratios mostly improved in 2018

* Middle East & Africa: Egypt leads bank efficiency decline in largest Middle Eastern, African economies

Among the 63 countries included in Market Intelligence's sample, the average ratio for banks decreased in 31 countries and increased in 32. The divergence among countries also continued to be wide. Algeria, for instance, had the lowest cost-to-income ratio average, at 27.05%, while Germany had the highest, at 79.89%.

Regionally, the average in the Americas generally improved, with seven of the 10 countries posting lower cost-to-income ratios compared to a year earlier. Conversely, the average ratio deteriorated in around three-quarters of the countries from the Middle East and Africa.

In Asia-Pacific and Europe, results were more evenly split.

When looking at banks across countries and regions, it is important to note that the economic, financial and regulatory environment of each country can affect cost-to-income ratios. Banks around the world also report financial results for a given period on different timelines, sometimes with fiscal year-ends that do not correspond to the calendar year-end. Market Intelligence used data available for each bank for the most recent period ending in 2018. Therefore, while the results included in this analysis do not perfectly line up in terms of time periods reported, they offer insight into the performance of banks in the 2018 calendar year.

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