Underperforming Despite Tailwinds
The financial cohort has conspicuously underperformed the broader market for the majority of 2018. The group didn’t participate in the broader market performance in Q3 where the S&P 500 had its best quarter since 2013. Banks have had domestic and global economic expansion tailwinds at its back while posting accelerating revenue growth, increasing dividend payouts, engaging in a record number of share buybacks and benefiting from tax reform. Augmenting this economic backdrop is a record number of IPOs, a record number of global merger and acquisitions, rising interest rates, deregulation, and tax reform. Banks are benefiting in unique ways due to the consulting fees regarding mergers and acquisitions and trading around market volatility. All of these elements provide an ideal confluence that bodes well for the financial sector. JP Morgan (JPM), Citi (C), Wells Fargo (WFC), Goldman Sachs (GS) and Bank of America (BAC) seemed to be poised to continue to benefit from the favorable economic backdrop. Thus far in 2018 the financials have performed terribly considering the broader market performance and the aforementioned economic tailwinds. There’s negative sentiment that’s placed the financials in a holding pattern for much of 2018 over concerns of rapid interest rate increases and an inverted yield curve.
The Federal Reserve, Rising Interest Rates and Economic Strength
The Federal Reserve expects the economy to continue to strengthen and inflation to rise shortly. The economic strength coupled with the threat of inflation provides an environment that’s ripe for rising interest rates. The Federal Reserve has been very bullish on the domestic front and signaled that rate hikes will continue and may even accelerate its pace of rate hikes contingent on inflation and economic strength. There’s no question that the financials benefit from rising interest rates, and Bank of America(BAC) has one of the largest deposit bases among all banks and serves as a pure play on rising interest rates. Goldman Sachs (GS) has even branched out into consumer banking with its Marcus product so needless to say all big banks will benefit from their deposit bases.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell stated that the unemployment rate currently stands at 3.9%, near a 50-year low while core inflation is right around 2%. Powell said that these two metrics are part of a “very good” economy that boasts “a remarkably positive outlook” from forecasters. The central bank approved a quarter point hike rate in the funds rate that now stands at 2.25%, and the committee indicated that another rate hike would happen before the end of the year. 2019 will likely see three more rate hikes and 2020 will see one rate hike before pausing to assess the delicate balance of rising rates in the midst of a strong economy while taming inflation. Continue reading "Financials – Conspicuously Underperforming"