As Bank Earnings Explode, Little Benefit for Shareholders

24/7 Wall St.

Almost every major bank has released earnings for the second quarter. Unfortunately, despite the fact that most beat expectations, none has rallied much beyond the improvement in the S&P -- at least as measured over the past month of trading.

Case in point: Citigroup (NYSE: C), which replaced its chief executive officer less than two quarters ago, as Michael L. Corbat took the helm. He said his first mark would be as a cost cutter. He has proved he can do better. The firm said in a press release that it "reported net income for the second quarter 2013 of $4.2 billion, or $1.34 per diluted share, on revenues of $20.5 billion. This compared to net income of $2.9 billion, or $0.95 per diluted share, on revenues of $18.4 billion for the second quarter 2012." A move in the top line, and a bit of a surprise. But, its stock has only outperformed the S&P by 2% over the past 30 days.

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An exception in terms of stock movement, perhaps because it had so far to recover from an ugly bottom, is Bank of America Corp. (BAC). Earnings surged, although the primary reason was cost cuts, which probably cannot be maintained. EPS were higher by 70% on a revenue increase of only 3%. Less than a year ago, there were questions about whether legal actions against the company, mostly tied to mortgage problems, would sink the financial firm. Shares have moved higher by 15%, while the S&P has risen 6% over the same time.

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Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) has worn the black hat as Wall St.'s scoundrel firm, its management viewed as one that will do anything to make money -- no matter how aggressive, It did remarkably well in the second quarter. At $164, its stock stands close to its 52-week high. However, it has risen slightly less than the S&P. Goldman's earnings doubled as revenue rose 30%. However, the concern remains that Goldman's revenue from trading for its own account cannot be sustained if those trades turn against it, as has been the case for many hedge funds over the past two months.

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Goldman's shares may have lost some of their allure as investors have begun to perceive Morgan Stanley (MS) as the "new Goldman." It has widened its lead in investment banking sector. And Morgan said it would buy back $500 million in shares, after a quarter driven by cost cuts. Morgan earnings doubled to $898 million. Its shares, up 8% over the past month, were barely better the S&P performance of 6%.

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Whatever the earnings in the banking sector, investors are worried enough to keep a cap on any rally.

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