Investment Contrarians

Want to Know How the Big Banks Are Doing? Take a Look at Your Bank Fees

By for Investment Contrarians |

Look at Your Bank Fees

The major bank stocks are all near their respective 52-week highs and an upside break appears to be in the works, as the banking industry continues to assume less risky businesses while shoring up their balance sheets.

The subprime credit crisis that surfaced in 2008 and drove the U.S. and global economies into a recession was not what we wanted to see; but in some sort of twisted way, the events have led to an industry that has restructured the way banks do business, specifically the amount of risk that is assumed by a bank via sophisticated strategies. So far, the change coined the “Volcker Rule,” set in place by economist and ex-Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, appears to be capping the speculative trades made by the banks, which is good.

Banks have altered the way they do business and have shown positive strides along the way.

In my view, the operating results have been fairly good, and they indicate that the banks are able to grow their business volume across the board during an economic recovery in the U.S.

And with the housing market and economy continuing to improve, I feel that bank stocks will also gain altitude.

The majority of the big banks have paid back part or all of their government loans. Bank stocks are showing promise and delivering better results.

The bank stocks risk has declined, but there are still issues that could hamper the ability of bank stocks to deliver. According to Trepp, a real-estate research service, about one out of every eight bank stocks failed the stress test. (Source: “Q2 2012 Trepp Capital Adequacy Stress Test Report,” Trepp, October 10, 2012.)

The chart of the Philadelphia Bank Index shows the upward move of bank stocks from their 2011 bottom. Banks staged a nice rally but retrenched in March to May 2012 on the European bank concerns and Moody’s Investor Services’ downgrade of the sector. The group has since staged a rally back to above the 50- and 200-day moving averages (MAs).

Bank Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

The Federal Reserve annual stress test in March showed 15 of the 19 U.S. big bank stocks passed the stress test, compared to 2009, when half of the big banks failed. The four stocks that failed the stress test were Citigroup, Inc. (NYSE/C), SunTrust Banks, Inc. (NYSE/STI), Ally Financial, and MetLife, Inc. (NYSE/MET).

According to Moody’s, the banks highest in risk are Bank of America Corporation (NYSE/BAC), Citigroup, Morgan Stanley (NYSE/MS), and The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc (NYSE/RBS). The concern expressed is that some of the bank stocks are vulnerable to risk in the global financial markets. We are talking about the U.S. banks’ holdings in European banks and the excess trading risk assumed in trying to make profits for shareholders.

The second-riskiest group of bank stocks comprises The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE/GS), Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft (NYSE/DB), and Credit Suisse Group AG (NYSE/CS).

And according to Moody’s, the most stable bank stocks include JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE/JPM), HSBC Holdings plc (NYSE/HBC), and Royal Bank of Canada (NYSE/RY). Canadian banks are quite strong and trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

The bottom line is that in spite of the risk that still exists in the bank group, the climate for bank stocks is much better and worthy of a look. I see bigger gains ahead.

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