October 8, 2019
by Bloomberg News
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Bloomberg – Banks may be set for a harder time in the next few years as they face slowing earnings-per-share growth and mounting concern about tax hikes and tighter regulation if Democrats win in 2020, analysts say.
Citi’s Keith Horowitz sees reduced earnings forecasts as bank stock valuations are “flashing red.” He updated his estimates and price targets to incorporate four interest rate cuts through 2020, which left Citi below Street estimates for 2020 and 2021. He expects bank management teams may add lower rates to their 2020 outlooks for net interest income, or NII, which will “come in substantially lower than consensus.”
At Jefferies, analyst Ken Usdin also flagged slower earnings and “sentiment hurdles.” The elections may return the “spotlight back to regulation and taxes,” he wrote. After years of “positive developments,” there may be “concerns about rollback if the Democrats gain control of the presidency and/or Senate.” In a worse-case scenario, Usdin said, reversing tax overhaul benefits might strip 12% from earnings per share.
Bank stocks fell in Tuesday morning trading, with the KBW bank index sliding as much as 2.3%, as bonds rallied and the broader market dropped amid flaring trade tensions. Top decliners included interest-rate-sensitive Silicon Valley lender SVB Financial Group; Citizens Financial Group and Regions Financial Corp., which were downgraded earlier, and bellwethers Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc., all of which shed more than 2.5%.
Jefferies’ base case is for a stable economy, but “trade talk could tip it either way,” analyst Usdin added. Credit metrics still seem benign, but Jefferies expects higher charge-offs off a low base. Attractive dividend yields and a shift toward value stocks might help banks, he said, but “EPS revisions are biased down with more rate cuts likely.” Jefferies’s base case includes two more rate cuts by the end of 2020, with a 1.50% terminal rate, and a 10-year Treasury yield around 1.75%.
Raymond James’s David Long also views earnings estimates as set to fall on lower rates. Slower loan growth will hurt banks too, as capital expenditures are poised to decline, loan pay-downs are rising, and there’s “increasing prudence among management teams at this point in the cycle.” At the same time, Long said, banks may get some relief as lower rates spur a refinancing wave, which may extend “the benign credit environment and low levels of provisioning.”
All three analysts changed some bank ratings: Horowitz cut Citizens Financial Group Inc., Regions Financial Corp., and U.S. Bancorp to sell and upgraded M&T Bank Corp. to neutral. Citi now has no buy recommendations on traditional banks. Usdin downgraded M&T and Zions Bancorp to hold from buy, and upgraded BB&T Corp., SunTrust Banks Inc. and Regions to buy from hold. Raymond James cut Cadence BanCorp to market perform and East West Bancorp Inc. to underperform.
At Stephens, analyst Terry McEvoy saw Midwest banks’ near-term credit trends as stable, with deposit costs possibly showing a “steady decline” in the fourth quarter. He cut third-quarter and 2020 estimates to account for the “challenging interest rate environment.” Based on stock price performance and present valuations, Stephens upgraded First Midwest Bancorp to overweight and cut Old National Bancorp to equal-weight.
Analysts have been cutting estimates ahead of a bank earnings season focused on interest rate pressure. Earnings reports kick off on Oct. 15, when Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. are due to report.
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