Eq: Financials (24)
The epicenter of the financial crisis accompanying the Coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly become the commercial real estate space. With so many physical businesses bringing in zero revenue, the huge suspension of cash payments is going to flow through to property owners and then to the lenders that financed those building purchases. Multiple parts of that value chain are going to targeted by markets, but Wells Fargo, in particular, looks exposed. The bank has almost 13% of mortgage market share (residential), around double the exposure of JPMorgan Chase and triple that of Bank of America.
FINSUM: The government’s stimulus package offers some good assistance to help support cash flow (via Ginnie Mae), which could soften the blow. But still, it is going to be a painful period.
Markets are in a very rough place right now, with benchmark indexes approaching bear market territory on Monday. Energy and travel have been the epicenter of losses, but every sector s getting hit badly. With that in mind, what is the best sector to invest in right now? The answer may be—somewhat surprisingly—financials, and XLF in particular. Whereas the S&P 500 as a whole was in the 99th percentile of valuations historically before the big fall, financials were only in the 60-70% range. Now with the big tumble in prices, financials are in the bottom 1% of their ten-year valuation range.
FINSUM: So rates and yields are super low, which obviously hurts banks’ net interest margin and has led to financial stocks getting pummeled. However, they are so cheap that this is a very good long-term entry point.
Donald Trump wasted no time in highlighting Democrats’ big debacle in the Iowa Caucus. And interestingly, markets wasted no time in jumping on news of the issues in Iowa. In particular, bank stocks jumped across the board (from JPM to BAC and beyond) on news of the reporting issue in Iowa. Investors think a Trump re-election will be better for markets, and bank stocks are particularly sensitive as the current president is viewed as much more favorable to financial companies.
FINSUM: If Bernie ends up winning the Caucus, expect markets to take a little hit, as he (or Warren) will be the exact opposite of “good” for bank stocks.
Morgan Stanley’s earnings this week were an absolute blow out for the Street. The bank beat all expectations and performed exceptionally well. For us, the earnings really feel like a salute to the whole wealth management industry, as it was Morgan Stanley’s pivot to focus more on that business that has made it the reliable earnings machine that it has become. Revenue from wealth management accounted for around 40% of the whole bank’s revenues, and was up 11% on the year.
FINSUM: Wealth management is a rock solid and capital light business, and MS’ earnings are a testament to that. Gorman’s choice to focus on this segment of their business a few years ago was a very smart one.
The stage was set for Goldman to knock it out of the park. JP Morgan had just released the best US bank earnings ever and other banks were looking strong heading into earnings season. Goldman has a new CEO and has made big changes to its business. It felt like this might be the start of a new era for the bank signified by some great earnings. Instead, it all fell flat. Goldman’s net income fell a whopping 26% and missed earnings per share estimates by a mile. That said, revenues did rise 23%, but litigation costs hurt the bottom line.
FINSUM: It wasn’t meant to be this quarter, and don’t be fooled by the big revenue growth as it mostly came from a huge surge in fixed income revenue, which is not sustainable quarter to quarter.
In a move that seems highly in contrast to its nature (or at least its “old” nature), Goldman Sachs is changing the way it reports its earnings as part of an effort to be more transparent. The bank is not doing this because of some general high-mindedness, but rather so that investors can better grasp the progress it is making in its various divisions, including in consumer finance. That area includes its new consumer savings and online lending unit—Marcus—as well as its new credit card venture with Apple.
FINSUM: This seems like a smart play and we could see this as a catalyst for Goldman to break out of its long-term stock stagnation.
The market and investors are in an odd juxtaposition. For the most part, the media and analysts remain pretty bearish, yet the market continues to rise. Fears of an economic slowdown are persistent. With all this in mind, what is the best way to play the market? Barron’s says you should sell puts, cashing in on investors’ fears and desire to buy puts. For instance, one could sell puts on the Financial Select SPDR (XLF), which is at a high water mark but is still quite vulnerable to a downturn because of fears over the economy and rates.
FINSUM: Granted, this is a nickel and dime strategy but it sure beats fearful money sitting in a money market account not earning much.
JP Morgan finished 2019 on a bang and was a great stock all year. It rose by a market-beating 42% over the course of the year despite worries over the economy and declining interest rates. This has led some to think the bank’s stock is overpriced, but many, like RBC believe it will continue to rise. The bank has what is considered a “fortress” balance sheet and it has done a great job diversifying its revenue streams so that its earnings are smoother. Jamie Dimon has no plans to retire.
FINSUM: Aside from its well balanced revenue streams (47% from consumer and community banking, 31% from its corporate and investment bank), the bank is also making a bigger push into wealth management, which could start helping the stock.
Goldman Sachs was the stock of the year in 2019. It was the best performing stock in the Dow, gaining more than 37% in the year. The bank started the year poorly with its 1MDB scandal, but as the year went on, David Solomon’s (the bank’s new CEO) leadership started to help the stock. The bank settled the issues and its earnings improved. It also made a large push into consumer finance as part of an effort to diversify its business and become a “modern, digital consumer bank”. The bank, through “Marcus”, its new consumer lending unit, is offering consumer savings products, while Goldman itself is partnering with Apple on the company’s new credit card.
FINSUM: In our view, Goldman’s stock price outlook is very linked to the big new push it is making in consumer finance. Its core business will likely continue to perform as it has, so the real difference maker will be its new business lines and the success of its “modernization”.
Investors should take a look at big banks. Executives at top financial companies are excited about potential Q4 performance. Earnings estimates are moving higher based on more bullish guidance. Last year’s fourth quarter saw a dismal performance from big banks, so that sets up a very favorable comparison to this year. Morgan Stanley’s earnings may be up 41% according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
FINSUM: It will probably be well-telegraphed, but big bank stocks still seem like they might see movement higher now and a pop on earnings releases.
Banks across the country are under pressure, and it is starting to show. Four US banks have failed already this year (three in the last month) compared to zero last year. The reasons why are many, but low interest rates and strong competition have been impacting the space. The four bank failures do not seem to be due to a particular asset class, but particular idiosyncratic circumstances. Still, as mortgages have seen lower rates, banks are more and more likely to move into more risky areas to boost yields.
FINSUM: In 2006 there were zero bank failures, in 2007 there were three, in 2008 it was very ugly. We do not think we are going down the same rode, but it is a sign worth noting.
Over the last few years, Goldman Sachs has undertaken one of the biggest bets in its history. It is trying to change its DNA as a pillar of high finance to become a broad financial services company that includes a large consumer-facing business. This led to the launch of its new business, Marcus, which is a consumer investment and lending unit. So far, the results have not been pretty. The bank has lost about $1.3 bn from investing in Marcus, and the default rates on its loans have been much higher than average, causing it to pull back from the space somewhat. It has also caused a lot of internal tension at the bank, with many senior partners leaving as the company completely overhauls itself. On the positive side, the bank has pulled in $50 bn in consumer deposits, which is a new source of funding it never thought it would have access to.
FINSUM: Goldman’s stock is still at 2014 levels. That says it all.
One of the biggest stocks in the country is sitting relatively unloved and appears ready for an investment. That stock? Bank of America, only the biggest deposit holder in the US. The single most important thing to recognize about the bank is that is a well-run powerhouse commanded by the architect who rebuilt it after the Crisis—Brian Moynihan. The bank has a 2.46% dividend, which is looking sweeter every day. JP Morgan just went bullish on the stock, and if Moynihan sticks with the trend and boosts the dividend and adds buybacks, the future looks very bright.
FINSUM: There are some headwinds given the likelihood of falling rates, but that situation also tends to juice all stock prices, which provides some good downside cover.
Bank stocks are probably not a good bet right now. They suffer when rates fall and they are quite exposed to economic slowdowns (in other words, ignore the new idea that banks are safe dividend producers like utilities). However, there are some banks and financial stocks that look likely to win in the near- to medium-term. Three names to consider: JP Morgan, Amex, and Discover. JP Morgan is basically just a very healthy bank with increasingly competitive pricing which looks likely to grow EPS nicely over the next few years. Amex is an interesting pick because it has a very high quality customer base, and its unique charge card revenue base is not so exposed to falling interest rates, making it much more defensible in a low rate/recession environment.
FINSUM: The Amex pick is quite unique. Their customer base is higher end, so less affected by recession. And their unique revenue model (for a card company) means they have lower interest rate exposure.