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Sunday, April 10, 2016, Chaitra 27, 1422 BS, Rajab 2, 1437 Hijri

Suffering bank investors in US search for bright spots
Published :Sunday, 10 April, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 23

NEW YORK, April 9: US banks are generally expected to post dismal results when their earnings season gets under way next week, but some analysts say to dig deeper: the fine print in the results, and what bank bosses say, could actually help these long-suffering stocks bounce back.
Four of the S&P 500's top-weighted banks, J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM.N), Wells Fargo (WFC.N), Bank of America (BAC.N) and Citigroup (C.N), are set to report grim first-quarter revenues and profits starting on Wednesday.
Analysts are expecting first-quarter reports in the financial sector to show a 9.2-per cent decline in earnings and a 0.2-per cent rise in sales.
The financials .SPSY have been the worst performing S&P 500 .SPX sector this year, down 8 per cent as the broader S&P 500 is flat.
"We think banks are about as low as they can go," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.
Bank shares are cheap compared to the rest of the market. Companies in the S&P financial sector are selling at roughly 12.8 times estimated earnings over the next 12 months, compared with 16.7 times forward earnings for the broader S&P 500.
Investors like Ghriskey will be parsing those reports to determine if the low prices present buying opportunities or simply reflecting the sad reality of poor earnings for some time to come.
Ghriskey, who said he'd be "very surprised to see positive earnings," said he will look beyond the numbers in the case he can gleam optimistic forecasts from bank managers. His firm is modestly overweight on financial services.
The sector has remained troubled since the global financial crisis as banks have battled prolonged low interest rates, faced an onslaught of pricy reform mandates, and, more recently, were hit by lending to risky oil and gas companies.
Even at seabed-low prices, it won't be easy for banks to prove their shares are a good buy.
Investors will look for notes about the type of exposure banks have to the energy sector, which is facing its first quarterly loss in at least a decade, according to Thomson Reuters data, and is expected to be the biggest drag on the S&P 500.
Bank shares could become more appealing if the companies can show a relatively healthy energy portfolio or that they are losing less money than expected on energy loans. Their forecasts might also strengthen if oil prices are in fact settling, as has seemed to be the case recently.
US oil prices, which had fallen to a low of about $26 a barrel by mid-February, had stabilized near $40 in March.
Investors will also look for signs of strength in banks' investment and trading arms, said Nomura senior analyst Steven Chubak.
Kim Forrest, vice president at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh, does not expect much from the financial sector going into earnings week, but said investors will be looking for opportunity due to the low prices.    ?Reuters

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