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BofA, PNC Seen as Stress-Test Winners, Capital One as Losing

Felice Maranz

(Bloomberg) -- The first round of the latest Federal Reserve stress tests, released last Friday after the market closed, was well received by Wall Street analysts, who said the results generally topped expectations.

Bank of America Corp., PNC Financial Services Group and trust banks BNY Mellon Corp., Northern Trust Corp. and State Street Corp. were seen as relative winners, while the Fed’s harsh view of credit cards led to disappointment for Capital One Financial Corp.

All eyes now turn to Thursday’s Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review, known as CCAR, for banks’ capital plans.

The biggest banks were mixed in early Monday trading, with BofA rising as much as 0.4%, Citigroup Inc. gaining as much as 0.2%, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. rallying as much as 1.2%, Wells Fargo & Co. dropping as much as 1% and JPMorgan Chase & Co. up 0.2%.

Here’s a sample of the latest commentary:

Morgan Stanley, Betsy Graseck

An “easier stress test is a positive for this week’s more important CCAR test,” Graseck wrote in a note. All 11 of Morgan Stanley’s covered banks passed, with Northern Trust, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., State Street, BNY Mellon, and Citigroup screening well versus Morgan Stanley’s capital return expectations. Capital One is most at risk.

Citi, Keith Horowitz

The results offer a “green light for higher capital return for most banks,” Horowitz wrote in a note. He forecasts a total payout of 103% versus 97% last year, as banks look to be “on solid footing” on the Dodd-Frank Act stress test (DFAST) results.

Citi views State Street Corp., PNC Financial Services Group, Northern Trust Corp., Bank of America Corp. and BNY Mellon Corp. as among those best positioned to exceed Street payouts. The results also imply that Capital One’s total payout will improve, though there’s risk buybacks will trail consensus estimates.

Goldman, Richard Ramsden

Results were “modestly better than expected,” as loss rates improved across trading and all loan categories, except for card and other consumer lending, Ramsden said in a note. Banks, with the possible exception of Capital One, look to be able to meet consensus estimated payouts.

Goldman attributes increased card losses to “higher stress to unemployment relative to last year, as well as higher stress on subprime card due to a Fed methodology change.” Commercial real estate loss rates were most improved, though in-line with the 2016-2017 average loss rate. Trading losses fell across the banks to $80 billion from $105 billion, with State Street and BofA seeing the biggest improvement.

Credit Suisse, Susan Roth Katzke

“Manageable stress” for large-cap U.S. banks means that “more manageable stress capital buffers should follow,” Katzke wrote in a note. DFAST results indicate banks “have sufficient capacity for expected capital returns.”

JPMorgan, Vivek Juneja

The results show an “increase in capital cushion at most of the large U.S. banks, and all of our banks remain well positioned to continue to return sizable amounts of capital.”

Bloomberg Intelligence, Alison Williams, Neil Sipes

“A solid pass across the largest U.S. banks, including units of foreign banks, in annual Dodd Frank Act stress tests should generally support payout plans, in our view. U.S. banks stressed capital ratios held above required minimums for participating banks. Stressed CET1 ratios were broadly better than in year-ago tests -- with the exceptions being Northern Trust and the U.S. unit of UBS.”

Atlantic Equities, John Heagerty

The results “once again underline the robustness of the large U.S. banks’ balance sheets,” Heagerty wrote in a note. BofA “appears to do very well in 2019,” while Goldman also fared better than last year. “With these results, it’s difficult to see any objections arising to submitted capital returns.”

KSP Research, Kevin St. Pierre

The results were better than expected, with “widespread improvement in minimum CET1 ratios and sizeable cushions to allow for consensus capital return expectations,” St. Pierre wrote in a note.

St. Pierre called Wells Fargo, BofA and PNC “relative winners,” as each saw “significant increases in CET1 minimums and large buffers to accommodate above-consensus capital return if they were aggressive in their ask.” Capital One was “the relative loser,” due to the Fed’s harsh view on cards.

Recommends buying bank stocks, as they’re “a compelling value,” while cautioning that “investing around CCAR results has been ineffective.”

Macquarie, David Konrad

U.S. banks under Macquarie coverage “performed well,” with higher minimum capital levels in every category except the leverage ratio for Wells Fargo. Lower loan loss rates and trading losses helped to improve capital ratios, while assumed growth rates in RWAs (risk-weighted assets) were lower. Trading and counter-party losses dropped, led by an “abnormally large” decline for BofA.

Sees potential upside for Goldman Sachs and PNC with CCAR, while BofA and Wells Fargo “also shine.” Those two have the most excess capital above stressed requirements, and may report the strongest buybacks, with a total payout ratio of 146% for Wells and 112% for BofA.

RBC, Gerard Cassidy

DFAST demonstrated that “under a supervisory severely adverse economic scenario ... the U.S. banking industry’s capital levels can withstand massive losses and still remain above well capitalized levels.”

KBW, Brian Kleinhanzl

The results were “less stressful than the prior year,” as banks “saw stress losses declining and modest improvements in net income before taxes.” As a result, only one bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co., “seems at risk of not meeting our capital return expectations.”

KBW expects “fewer surprises in CCAR results on Thursday, which is a modest positive for the group overall.”

Raymond James, David Long

Long sees BNY Mellon and State Street as winners, “given the wide spread between their projections and the Fed’s.” He also sees BofA as a winner, as their results pave the way for them to increase the dividend payout closer to peers, and as “stock repurchases remain an attractive use of capital at current levels.”

(Updates share trading in fourth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Felice Maranz in New York at fmaranz@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Catherine Larkin at clarkin4@bloomberg.net, Steven Fromm

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