The global reach of some of the big British banks looks like seeing them through a sticky patch.

They are currently queuing up to report their half time results and their figures will be closely scrutinised to see how they are faring in a climate of spiralling bad debts, rising company crashes and falling consumer credit levels.

Barclays sent shivers down the City's spine earlier this year when it revealed that its debtors' book was in worse shape than had been expected.

But since then investors have piled into banking shares while remaining poised to reduce sail should the winds of recession begin to pick up.

Sentiment was summed up by one fund manager who said: "The banks' shares have had a good run and people are starting to worry about bad debts again."

At first sight, investors' faith seemed justified on Friday when Lloyds TSB reported a seven per cent rise in interim profits.

It said it had offset the negatives by recruiting what it termed "quality customers" - it probably means rich people. The giant HSBC will keep the results ball rolling today with analysts betting on a dip in first half profits to £5.2 billion from £5.8 billion last time, as the consequences of the new accounting standards made themselves felt.

Broker Charles Stanley - incidentally, the latest arrival on the Birmingham stockbroking scene - reckons that the Hong Kong & Shanghai - which swallowed that great Birmingham banking legend, the Midland - is expected to report a deteriorating bad debt situation. Which means, says Charles Stanley, that any underlying growth will come from its emerging markets arm.

Mind you, it doesn't take a crystal ball to work that out. HSBC said at the time of its full-year results that profits owed more to growth and favourable conditions in the United States and China than in the UK.

The same goes at Royal Bank of Scotland, which takes in NatWest, which is widely expected to announce that improvements in its business banking operations in the UK and US are offsetting a stagnant domestic retail market.

Investors will once again be looking out for comments on bad debt, but should be cheered by news of first half pre-tax profits rising to around £ 4.25 billion on Thursday from £3.77 billion, according to stockbroker Barclays.

After results from the likes of Halifax/Bank of Scotland group BOS (look out for another set of good figures from its Wolverhamptonbased savings and specialist lending arm Birmingham Midshires) and Alliance & Leicester along the way, Barclays will finish off the week with its first half figures on Friday.

Barclays is likely to impress after saying in an update in May that it had delivered good profits, with its UK business banking arm performing strongly as a result of good lending momentum.

It said at the time that UK retail banking was broadly flat, with growth in current accounts offset by weaker income from its mortgage business and also its retail savings.