Eq: Financials (30)
The better the economy gets, the more banks seem like a good buy. Banks have been rather severely beaten up over the last several months, largely missing on the price recovery of so many other stocks. This is primarily because of two factors—ultra-low interest rates, and the potential for losses on their loan portfolios. However, it is increasingly appearing like loan losses may not be nearly so severe as forecast, and that billions of Dollars set aside to account for such losses may now be released onto earnings over the next couple of quarters.
FINSUM: Two considerations here. Firstly, the idea of loan losses flowing back to the bottom line and causing upside surprises at earnings time sounds great, especially within the longer-term perspective that banks are a good macro bet on the recovery. The downside risk here relates to an article yesterday in BuzzFeed that accused banks (using obtained data on potential fraudulent activity in client accounts) of not following regulations related to money laundering. That could obviously turn into a big mess, but as yet it is unclear if that is a material risk.
Banks have been absolutely hammered since COVID erupted, and they have not come back very much at all. Overall they are down 33% on the year versus a 5% gain for the S&P 500. Worries about loan losses and low interest rates headline the set of fears for the banking sector. However, banks may have an ace in the hole. Early in the year they set aside tens of billions for loan losses—which hurt earnings, but that may now be their good fortune. Loan losses have not been as bad as expected and many suspect that banks may start to let some of those loss provisions flow through to the bottom line in the next couple earnings seasons.
FINSUM: In our view, this would be a double whammy to the upside for the sector. Not only would it result in blowout earnings, but it would officially alleviate a big fear—that loan losses are going to be very bad because of COVID. Altogether seems like a good opportunity.
Bank stocks have been heavy maligned by investors since COVID erupted. Several bank indexes, like the KBW, are down significantly on the year. KBE, a popular bank ETF is down over 30% on the year versus a small gain for the S&P 500. Ultra-low interest rates and loan losses are the big factors weighing on banks, but within the latter could be the spark of a rally. Banks have been setting aside tens of billions of Dollars in loan loss reserves, and seem to have been very bearish in their allocation of said reserves. Such reserves are also understood to likely have peaked at the end of Q2. That means that if loan losses aren’t as bad as forecast, some of those billions will likely be allowed to flow into the profit category for banks, allowing great earnings reports which could prompt a rally.
FINSUM: Banks are play on the recovery and can be had very cheaply. Additionally, this loan loss reserve aspect creates a nice catalyst for why a rally would start.
Picking stocks is about the hardest thing one can do right now. The market has risen so much—and seems to be defying gravity—that it is hard to know where to allocate money. On the one hand, growth stocks look ludicrously priced, while on the other, value has been underperforming for over a decade. With that said, here are some stocks that are still providing a good discount but look likely to rise as the performance of their underlying business improves. The first place to look is at beaten-up financial stocks, such as those in the KBW bank index, which is down 30% for the year despite big gains in the market. However, sentiment is turning positive. According to RBC, “Based upon the valuations and the outlook for the economy in 2021, we believe bank stocks can be purchased with the expectation the group outperforms the general market over the next 12-18 months”. The stocks to look for are Bank of America, Truist, TCF Financial, Western Alliance, BankUnited, and Investors Bancorp.
FINSUM: Banks are always a bet on the economy, and given their heavily maligned share prices and the general trajectory of the recovery, seem a wise bet. The only lingering risk in our minds (other than a weak recovery) is how continued ultra-low rates might hurt their earnings over the long haul.
It is a great time to be an investment bank. That fact became very clear last week when Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley earnings destroyed those of more traditional lenders like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Goldman, for instance, may be a great buy. It has much less main street lending exposure than regular banks, and has booming underwriting and trading businesses that are benefitting from low rates and market volatility. Some nice summary comments from an analyst at JMP Securities, saying “Goldman had a phenomenal quarter that allowed the firm to pad its legal reserves and conservatively position itself on loan losses … The bigger story is where the firm is going … Goldman is the biggest transformation story in finance, and the pandemic hasn’t derailed that”.
FINSUM: Firstly, these earnings came with all their employees working from home. So a 50% outperformance versus expectations with home-based traders. To us that is a sign of excellent management. More generally, their business mix—with a majority of institutional and growing, but not huge, consumer-facing revenue lines—seems ideal for the current environment. The stock is also priced below book value.
Godman Sachs has generally been underperforming its competitors for years. However, under the leadership of CEO David Solomon the future is looking increasingly bright. On the one hand, the bank’s bet that trading would return as a huge driver of revenue and profit is starting to look smart (though it took about a decade), but on the other, its new focus on consumer and commercial banking products seems wise. Marcus, the brand under which its consumer-facing high yield savings accounts for consumers and businesses is marketed, has been growing its user base, with Goldman Sachs more generally has entered into many partnership deals in the consumer space. These include a new card with Apple, and a small business lending program in partnership with Amazon.
FINSUM: Goldman has been trying to shed its clubby image, and so far it seems to be making all the right moves. We are bullish on the future.
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.