金融业如今已经从陷入困境的借款人带来的巨额损失中恢复了元气，又飘飘然起来。美国各大银行在剔除最危险的资产、清理资产负债表之后，大多数都通过了年度压力测试。投资者当然注意到了这一情况。今年到目前为止，标准普尔500指数（Standard & Poor's 500）的金融类成分股已经上涨了16%，高于总指数的涨幅（9%）。美国银行（Bank of America） 的股价更是飙涨了59.3%，成为涨幅仅次于西尔斯百货公司（Sears）的标准普尔500指数成分股。
但是，与金融危机爆发前几年那些臭名昭著的特征非常类似的风险似乎正缓慢回潮。美联储（the Federal Reserve）的宽松货币政策可能刺激了投资，在理想状况下，这些投资又将反过来促进经济增长。但代价是什么呢？
第一资本公司（Capital One）和通用金融公司（GM Financial ）又开始引诱那些仅仅几年前金融机构还避之唯恐不及的高风险借款人。《纽约时报》（The New York Times）最近报道称:去年12月份，信用卡贷款人向信用受损的借款人发行了110万张新卡，比上年增长了12.3％。
Nobody wants to relive the height of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. The biggest banks scrambled for federal aid, the housing market crashed, and millions lost their jobs. Wall Street was saved, and Main Street paid dearly for it.
In the wake of the crisis, new financial regulations were passed to help avoid another disaster. This might suggest Americans have learned their lessons. Or have we?
The finance industry is starting to feel better about business again, having recovered from huge losses made to troubled borrowers. Most of America's largest banks passed their annual stress test after unloading their riskiest assets and cleaning up their balance sheets. And investors have certainly taken notice. So far this year, shares of financial companies listed on the Standard & Poor's 500 index have risen 16%, higher than the overall index's rise of 9%. Bank of America (BAC) stock, in particular, has rallied 59.3%, becoming S&P's second-biggest gainer next to Sears (SHLD).
But similar risks that infamously defined the years leading up to the financial crisis appear to be slowly creeping back. The Federal Reserve's cheap money policy may have spurred investments, which in turn would ideally help the economy grow. But at what cost?
Here are four signs that risk is back on Wall Street:
Risky borrowers get loan offers
For some lenders, troubled borrowers no longer seem as troubled.
Capital One (COF) and GM Financial are luring back riskier borrowers that financial institutions turned away only a few years ago, The New York Times recently reported. In December, credit card lenders issued 1.1 million new cards to borrowers with damaged credit, a 12.3% increase over the previous year.
There are a few ways to look at the rise. For one, as the Times points out, it's questionable if it's even good for the broader economy. Are consumers even ready to take on more debt? Unemployment is high. Millions are still chained to mortgages worth more than their homes. This clearly raises ethical issues.
Meanwhile, it also reflects banks responding to a new profile of borrowers. They've begun to realize they can't always turn down people with credit blemishes, given that the financial crisis has pushed even the most creditworthy borrowers into foreclosure. Of course, lending standards for mortgages remain tight, but the consultancy Deloitte has suggested that it would be a mistake for lenders to dismiss "first-time defaulters," who otherwise would be in good credit standing if it weren't for the recession. In a report released last summer, Deloitte recommended: "Targeting this segment of first-time defaulters could become a unique revenue opportunity for institutions."
Deloitte might see it as "unique," but it's likely that banks just see it as necessary. After all, they're looking to make up billions of dollars in fees lost by new financial regulations. So it's really no surprise that credit cards, which charge relatively high interest rates and late fees, could be one answer.