The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Dow Chemical

Zacks Equity Research

For Immediate Release
Chicago, IL – May 06, 2014 – announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM-Free Report), Bank of America Corp. (BAC-Free Report), Citigroup Inc. (C-Free Report), Morgan Stanley (MS-Free Report) and Dow Chemical Company (DOW-Free Report).
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Here are highlights from Monday’s Analyst Blog:

Will Russian Exposure Cut Add to Banking Woes?

Operations on global platforms strengthen a company’s revenue stream, facilitating it to capitalize on locational advantages and resources and finally broaden its customer base. However, at the same time, it is a known fact that an unfavorable situation in any of the foreign platforms may hurt profitability of the firm.  

The overall U.S. stock market was volatile in the first quarter, though major indexes showed strength. Apart from the Federal Reserve’s tapering of fiscal stimulus and sluggish economic activities in emerging markets, the volatility stemmed from the geopolitical tension that took place when Russian troops advanced towards Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

What Made Matters Worse?

In order to end the Russian military intrusion in Crimea and bring stability in eastern Ukraine, the US and EU enforced sanctions on Russia. In compliance with such U.S. sanctions, three major banking giants – JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM-Free Report), Bank of America Corp. (BAC-Free Report) and Citigroup Inc. (C-Free Report) – lowered their exposure to Russia in the first quarter of the year.

According to their latest filings, Citigroup’s exposure in Russia fell 8.7 % to $9.4 billion, while Bank of America reported a 22% decline in its exposure, largely in the form of loans to Russian energy companies and banks. Similarly, JPMorgan reduced its exposure in Russia by 13% to $4.7 billion.

Notably, JPMorgan recently blocked money transfer from a Russian embassy to an insurance agency. The required amount was to be transferred from a Russian embassy in Kazakhstan to Russian insurance firm Sogaz, which is partially owned by Abros. Abros is a subsidiary of Bank Rossiya, which has been blacklisted by the U.S. government. This prompted JPMorgan to stop the remittance.

Among others, in Dec 2013, Morgan Stanley (MS-Free Report) signed a deal with Russia-based Rosneft Oil Company’s wholly owned subsidiary to vend Morgan Stanley’s Global Oil Merchanting unit. The finalization of the deal, which is yet to close, may be affected if U.S. imposes sanctions on Russia’s core sector – Oil & Gas.

Earnings Reflect Sector Headwinds

Nearly 68.4% of the total companies in the Finance sector have reported first-quarter results so far with an earnings beat ratio (percentage of companies coming out with positive surprises) of 66.7% and revenue beat ratio of 59.3%.

Notably, the Major Banks are expected to report 13.6% earnings decline in the quarter and earnings of Banks & Thrifts are expected to be down 6.6% year over year.

Bottom Line

The banking industry is encountering a setback owing to several issues. These include a slower pace of consumer and corporate activities, still dismal mortgage market and mounting legal costs. Further, the banks are witnessing weak loan growth and continuous pressure on net interest margin amid a persistently low interest rate environment.

The stringent regulatory landscape is another burden on the financials of banks. We believe the latest revelation of reduction in exposure by the sector leaders will further add to the woes, as it will put some pressure on their top line.

Notably, on Friday, President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated at imposing additional sanctions against Russia if it intervenes in Ukraine's elections scheduled on May 25. We suggest additional sanctions by the U.S would further add to the concerns of banks with exposure in Russia. 

Dow Wins Bronze Edison Award

The Dow Chemical Company (DOW-Free Report) was recognized with a prestigious Bronze Edison Award for its FILMTEC ECO Reverse Osmosis (:RO) Elements in San Francisco on Apr 30, under the Energy/Sustainability and Commercial Resource Management category. This recognition in itself symbolizes the importance of technologies and innovations in making impacts on real-world issues like water and energy scarcity.

Dow named DOW FILMTEC ECO RO technology as its second “Breakthrough to World challenges” that has a large-scale positive sustainability impact in the area of water. This technology was recognized by the judging committee for its ability to impact millions of lives by delivering 40% better water purification at 30% lesser energy utilization through its revolutionizing water treatment, thus resulting in up to 19% less operating expenses.

Dow announced Omega-9 Healthy Oils as its first Breakthrough to World challenges in Jun 2012, which had a positive sustainability impact in the area of health.

The FILMTEC ECO RO technology, launched in 2013 with more than 15 patents, is expected to deliver 15 trillion metric tons of clean water, more than 2 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy savings, and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 1.5 million metric tons in its first 10 years of use alone.

The benefits of FILMTEC ECO RO technology encourage manufacturers, who need water as a critical utility or as a process ingredient, to have an ecological and economic balance while manufacturing products used on daily basis such as electronics, clothing, food and beverages. This technology also helps power utility providers to minimize the need for chemicals used to clean the membranes, thereby improving their power production uptime.
Dow currently holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

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