BUSINESS

New York City Faces 'Extreme Downside Risk' From European Debt Crisis: Report

12/16/2011 09:01 am ET

(Joan Gralla) - New York City's economy faces an "extreme downside risk" from Europe's debt crisis because its banks hold over $1 trillion of assets in the city, where they are active lenders, according to a new report released on Thursday.

The city's economy is intertwined with Europe's because non-financial companies have significant ties to European companies while millions of tourists from this region visit the city every year, according to the report by City Comptroller John Liu.

"In light of these widespread commercial interactions, adverse effects on the City's economy from Europe's debt crisis appear alarming and lend greater urgency to addressing existing budget issues," Liu said in a statement.

This potential problem could bedevil New York City's finances, which already are being pressured by the job-cutting downturn of its prime industry: Wall Street.

The Democratic comptroller warned that Mayor Michael Bloomberg might be underestimating some risks. The list includes

the difficulty of negotiating labor contracts for teachers and supervisors with no wage increases for the past round of bargaining and the possibility that cash-poor New York state will cut $200 million in aid.

A mayoral spokesman, saying Bloomberg had warned that New York City's economic outlook was uncertain, added: "He has kept the city's fiscal house in order while delivering services that continue to produce record results through two historic downturns."

The kinds of risks that Liu indentified could help widen the city's budget gaps to $1.7 billion in the current accord, $3.2 billion in fiscal 2013, $4.4 billion in 2014 and $5 billion in 2015.

The city's current budget is balanced.

Bloomberg, a political independent, has forecast smaller gaps of $2 billion in 2013, $3.8 billion in 2014 and $4.9 billion in 2015.

On the positive side, the comptroller estimated that the city's five pension funds will cost less than Bloomberg predicted, which could save more than $1 billion from the current fiscal year to 2015.

Though New York City typically benefits when the stock market rises, as it sweeps in higher tax collections from profitable banks and brokerages and individuals with capital gains, there is a plus to the market's current roller-coaster ride.

"The Comptroller's Office believes that continued stock market volatility and low interest rates will further encourage institutional investors to shift portfolios towards commercial real estate, especially in premium markets such as New York City, thereby stimulating transactions of commercial property," the report said.

(Reporting By Joan Gralla)

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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