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A $123 Billion Chunk of Energy Debt

It's a huge number, but it's not potentially catastrophic yet.

Everyone knows the energy patch is suffering, but it's difficult to reliably quantify the pain.

Here's a start: $123 billion.

That's the estimated amount of outstanding loans and lending commitments to the energy industry that big U.S. banks have on their books, gleaned from reports by analysts at RBC Capital Markets, Janney Montgomery Scott and Susquehanna International Group published this month. That number, previously hard to come by, is important because oil prices have plunged to less than one-third of what they were two years ago, and investors and regulators would like to have a sense of how much pain could spread if the energy industry could not pay back its obligations. If banks suffered severe losses tied to energy-related debt, it could magnify the damage to the broader economy.