Displaying items by tag: earnings
Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan is looking to increase the profitability of the bank’s wealth management unit. He wants to achieve this by increasing scale, hiring more advisors, promoting more cross-selling of products, and investing in technology.
In Q4, Bank of America had a net gain of 175 brokers with most of the growth coming from graduates of its training program. It ended the year with 18,916 advisors across all units which was a 2% decline from the end of 2023. The bank has also sought to stem the tide of defections over the past few years by upping compensation to match its competitors.
Moynihan wants to expand headcount and increase the bank’s presence in underserved markets. A key aspect of this is its revamped broker training which was integrated with Merril in 2021 and has increased retention rates of new advisors.
Another element of the growth plan is to increase use of Bank of America financial products across its ecosystem. This means getting wealth management clients to use Bank of America financial products such as home loans or bank accounts, or private banking customers should be using Merrill for wealth management rather than an outside firm. He sees this as an opportunity to increase sales with minimal expense compared to other channels.
Finsum: Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan was positive on the wealth management unit’s performance. He sees future growth coming from adding advisors, investing in technology, and increasing cross-selling of products.
LPL Financial was higher following its Q4 earnings report which showed the company exceeding analysts’ consensus forecast. For the quarter, it generated $3.51 per share in earnings which topped estimates of $3.39 per share. Total revenue was up 13% to reach $2.6 billion, while advisor revenue was up 20%. It also added 256 net new advisors and now has a total of 22,660 advisors.
The results were strong across the board as it saw a 22% increase in total advisory and brokerage assets, reaching $1.35 trillion. Further, it brought in $25 billion in new assets in the fourth quarter, highlighting the firm’s success in growth via acquisitions and recruitment. Another source of growth has been enterprise, where LPL manages a wealth management platform for banks, credit unions, and other institutions. Recently, it was announced that LPL would become the brokerage and wealth management platform for Prudential Financial which counts $50 billion in assets and 2,600 financial advisors.
The firm is also looking to expand with the launch of LPL Private Wealth Management which intends to hire advisors as employees rather than as independent contractors. It believes its multi-channel approach is a differentiator and key to its success as it means the firm can appeal to all types of advisors.
Finsum: LPL reported strong Q4 and full-year earnings which exceeded analysts’ estimates and sent the stock higher.
Lower prices for crude oil and natural gas will lead to a more than 30% decline in earnings for the energy sector in Q4. In contrast, the S&P 500 is expected to see a 1.4% drop in earnings. However, these numbers are somewhat skewed by the 7 largest, mega cap tech stocks which have seen a 53.7% increase in earnings. Subtracting these stocks from the S&P 500 reveals earnings decline of 10.5% for the index.
Overall, energy will see the biggest decline in earnings among all sectors. The weakness was recently highlighted by top-line misses for Exxon Mobil and Chevron. The biggest losses are expected in Oil & Gas Refining and Marketing with a 63% contraction in earnings, followed by Integrated Oil & Gas at -34%, and Oil & Gas Exploration & Production with a 20% drop. On the other side, Oil & Gas Equipment & Services and Oil & gas Storage & Transportation, both saw earnings growth.
Many producers are dealing with a bearish outlook for oil and gas prices due to weaker demand from Europe and China despite elevated geopolitical risks. At the same time, these producers are dealing with higher costs due to inflation, creating incentives to increase revenue by adding production.
Finsum: As Q4 earnings season enters its later stages, it’s clear that the energy sector will see the biggest decline in earnings. Here are some of the major factors behind the drop.
Stocks and bonds were both down following comments by Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller that rate cuts will be implemented slowly. Both are now in the red on a YTD basis. According to Waller, “When the time is right to begin lowering rates, I believe it can and should be lowered methodically and carefully.” As opposed to previous cycles, when cuts were implemented aggressively and quickly, Waller sees a slower, more gradual pace this time around.
His comments had a chilling effect, especially as financial markets had been in a buoyant mood, looking ahead to rate cuts later this year and the possibility of a ‘soft landing’. While Waller injected a dose of hawkishness, recent economic data has also been on the weak side, adding to recession fears. Needless to say, such developments reduce the odds of a ‘soft landing’ scenario.
Currently, Fed futures markets indicate a 60% chance of a cut at the March FOMC meeting. Going into that meeting, inflation and labor market data will be major factors in this decision and market-moving events. Q4 earnings season is also starting, and it will be worth watching whether the improvement in Q3 will continue. The current consensus is for S&P 500 Q4 earnings to increase by 1.6% compared to last year.
Finsum: Stocks and bonds weakened following hawkish comments from Fed Governor Waller. Waller sees a slower pace of rate cuts during this cycle than previous ones.
There was an inflection point for financial markets in October. Soft inflation data resulted in a change in consensus as Fed futures now indicate that the Fed’s next move is more likely to be a rate cut rather than a hike. One of the biggest winners of this dovish shift has been small-cap stocks as the Russell 2000 is up 12.1% over the last 90 days and 8.5% over the past month. Another reason for interest in the sector is that valuations are at historically low levels.
In theory, rate cuts are bullish for small-cap stocks since they lead to lower financing costs, puts upward pressure on multiples, and tends to be a leading indicator of an increase in M&A activity. In reality, rate cuts are often necessary due to a weakening economy. Thus, a major variable in whether small-caps deliver stellar returns is whether inflation can continue to moderate without the economy tumbling into a recession.
According to Mike Wilson, CIO and chief US equity strategist for Morgan Stanley, investors should pay close attention to earnings revisions, high frequency economic data, and small business confidence. At the moment, all of these measures are moving in the wrong direction. He adds that for small-cap outperformance to continue, GDP needs to reaccelerate, and inflation needs to stabilize at current levels.
Finsum: After years of underperformance, small-cap stocks are seeing huge gains on rising odds of a Fed rate cut next year. However, continued outperformance for the sector depends on certain variables.