The positive earnings announcement by Wells Fargo on Wednesday was marred by a sell recommendation from Dick Bove and a lot of chatter about credit writedowns and mortgage servicing rights (MSRs). I wanted to add a few words about the report, MSRs, and bank stocks more generally.
First of all, this has been a very good quarter for bank earnings. Many of the big names globally have surprised to the upside. this includes Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, US Bancorp, SEB in Sweden, Credit Suisse in Switzerland and on down the line. As one would expect, most banks are profiting from record low interest rates.
The question for the big banks is whether the huge writedowns they are still taking and the run-up in their stock prices since march limits any upside in valuation. For smaller banks, we should expect weaker results as they are more leveraged to the sectors of the economy like commercial real estate and construction loans which are still suffering. Goldman and Morgan Stanley should do relatively better as they are really broker-dealers and both investment banking and sales & trading are doing well right now. On the whole, I have said I think upside is limited for the sector, but downside is vast. Hence I am bearish on bank stocks.
Let’s look at Wells Fargo (WFC) as an example of what is happening.
Wells reports record profits
Wells reported net income of $32 billion, a robust operating pre-tax profit of $10.8 billion, and record net income of $3.2 billion. Sounds wonderful. What’s not to like? That was bank analysts Dick Bove’s initial impression as well. Live on-air at CNBC, he said Wells Fargo “is proving itself to be a standout.”
But, once Bove got a peek under the hood and started to crunch the numbers at Wells, he was significantly less impressed – so much so that he issued a sell rating literally nine hours later. And he took a lot of flak for this about-face.
Reports filed by banks with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation indicate that at the end of June about one-sixth of all construction loans were in trouble. With more than half a trillion dollars in such loans outstanding, that represents a source of major losses for banks.
Construction loans were highly attractive in recent years for many banks, particularly smaller ones without a national presence. One reason was that other types of loans were not easy to make. A handful of big banks came to dominate credit card loans, for example, and corporate loans were often turned into securities.
Construction loans, however, needed local expertise and were not easy to standardize. In a booming real estate market, there were few losses on such loans.
It is in commercial real estate construction — be it stores or office buildings — that the pain seems likely to rise. At the end of June, $291 billion in such loans was outstanding, down only a few billion from the peak reached earlier this year.
“On the commercial side,” said Matthew Anderson, a partner in Foresight Analytics, a research firm based in Oakland, Calif., “I think we are fairly early in the down cycle.”
Foresight estimates that 10.4 percent of commercial construction loans are troubled, but expects that to increase as the year goes on.
Construction Loans Problems By Type
Local Expertise? What Local Expertise?
One has to laugh at the statement "Construction loans, however, needed local expertise".
In regards to "local", Pray tell what did Chicago-based Corus bank know about condo construction in Florida, California, and Georgia?
Indeed, what expertise was displayed by anyone, anywhere in regards to construction loans?
How Bad An Omen?
Just how bad an omen this is for banks depends on whether or not the problem is getting worse (it is), and how much banks have allocated in loan loss provisions.
FN: The Chinese government has finally caught on to the fact that they’ve created a bubble and are trying to "talk it down". As long as the central bank and the rest of the banks continue to provide liquidity, Wen Jiabao is going to be as successful as Alan Greenspan was when he warned of "irrational exuberance" while having his foot placed firmly on the monetary accelerator.
Everybody was looking forward to hear what Janet Yellen had to say last week, as people were waiting for a cue about what the Federal Reserve might do next month and later this year. Will the Fed keep the interest rates stable? Or will we indeed see three additional rate hikes to push the benchmark interest rate towards 1.25%?
The side effects of Negative Interest Rate Policies in Europe and Japan — what we’ve come to call the NIRP absurdity — are becoming numerous and legendary, and they’re fanning out across the globe, far beyond the NIRP countries.
Seven of the eight indexes on our world watch list posted gains over the past week, up from five the week before, and the average of the eight was an impressive 2.60%. India's SENSEX was the outstanding out performer with a 5.34% surge, and three indexes, France's CAC 40, the Hong Kong's Hang Seng and Germany's DAXK closed the week with gains in the mid-three percents. China's Shanghai was the sole loser with its fractional 0.16% decline. Japan's Nikkei had the second worse performance with a modest gain of 0.59%. Incidentally, the Nikkei about 4% below its late January close when the Bank of Japan adopted its negative interest rate policy.
The rally in mining stocks since the first of the year has been very impressive.
The rally has taken Gold Miners ETF GDX up to test the 23% retracement of the collapse over the past 5-years. At the same time it is hitting the 23% level, two other resistance lines are being put to a test, with momentum at the highest levels in the past 5-years.
Graham Media Group, Inc., a Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC) subsidiary, said it struck a deal with Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Inc. and Media General, Inc. to purchase WCWJ, a CW affiliate television station in Jacksonville, Florida and WSLS, an NBC affiliate television station in Roanoke, Virginia for $60 million in cash and the assumption of certain liabilities.
The agreement to acquire Nextar Broadcasting included pension obligations. Graham Media Group, Inc. would continue to operate both stations under their current network affiliations.
Graham Media said the acquisition is subject to approval by the FCC, other regulatory appr...
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Do you remember when you were growing up and all your friends were allowed Atari game consoles but you weren’t?
Well, I do and the things seemed as foreign to me as Venus. Mostly because the little time I managed to spend on the gaming consoles when my friends weren’t hogging them I found it all a bit silly. I never “got” computer games, and to this day still have poor comprehension of things like Angry Birds.
I suspect that many people around the world view Bitcoin in the same way as I view Angry Birds: with mild amusement and a general lack of understanding as to what the hell all the fuss is about.
I was thinking of this since a buddy of mine recently started ...
After a three-year bull run that more than quadrupled its value by its peak last July, IBD’s Medical-Biomed/Biotech Industry Group plunged 50% by early February, hurt by backlashes against high drug prices and mergers that seek to lower corporate taxes.
Although we try to stay focused on finding and managing promising trade ideas, the comments in the comment section sometimes take a political turn (for access, try PSW — click here!). So today, Jean Luc writes,
The GOP debate last night was just unreal – are these people running to be president of the US or to lead a college fraternity! Comparing tool size? The only guy that looks semi-sane is Kasich. The other guys are just like 3 jackals right now.
And something else – if Trump is the candidate, that little Romney speech yesterday is probably already being made into a commercial. And all these little snippets from the debate will also make some nice ads! If you are a conservative, you have to be scared now.
Phil writes back,
I was expecting them to start throwing poop at each other &n...
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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