Week Ahead: Banks get Q3 earnings season underway, US presidential election watch

Week Ahead

The start of Q3 earnings season is sure to bring heightened volatility this week, but what about the second showdown between Trump and Biden? The President’s coronavirus diagnosis seems to have pushed more undecided voters into Biden’s camp – it doesn’t like there will be a debate but we are looking at ongoing developments in the campaign.

US presidential election

Catching Covid-19 hasn’t done Trump any favours in the US election polls, with Biden almost 10 points ahead in our election poll tracker at the time of writing. His lead in the top battlegrounds has come down to 4.6pts. Trump trailed Hilary Clinton by 5.1pts in the key battleground states at this stage in 2016, but we should note there are fewer undecided voters this time. Latest betting odds imply 65% chance of a Biden win. 

Banks get Q3 earnings season underway 

The start of Q3 earnings season will add even more volatility to the mix this week. Banks are the first in focus: Citigroup and JPMorgan get things going on October 13th, while Bank of AmericaGoldman Sachs and Wells Fargo are due to report on the 14th. Morgan Stanley reports on Oct 15th. 

In Q2 banks saw a surge in trading revenue that helped to offset large increases in provisions for loan losses. JPM, Goldman Sachs, Citi, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America posted their best combined revenue – $33 billion – in a decade. 

At the time, we argued that investors need to ask whether the exceptional trading revenues are all that sustainable, and whether there needs to be a much larger increase for bad debt provisions. 

There are some doubts over whether the jump in trading revenue continued in Q3 – Jamie Dimon expected it to halve. Bad loan provisions, on the other hand, could go much higher. 

Chief market analyst Neil Wilson has outlined some key questions for banks this earnings season. 

Bank Q3 earnings expectations 

(source: Markets.com) 

Bank  Forecast Revenues (no of estimates) 

  

Forecast EPS (no of estimates) 

  

BOA  $20.8bn (8)  $0.5 (23) 
GS  $9.1bn (15)  $5 (21) 
WFG  $17.9bn (17)  $0.4 (24) 
JPM  $28bn (19)  $2.1 (23) 
MS  $10.4bn (15)  $1.2 (20) 
C  $18.5bn (17)  $2 (21) 

Economic data overshadowed by earnings and election focus? 

This week’s economic data may be overlooked given the focus on corporate America and the second Presidential Debate. 

We’ll be watching labour market updates from the UK, Australia and the US this week, along with sentiment and production data from the Eurozone. 

US inflation, retail sales and the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment index will also be in focus, although these would have to do a lot to make waves, given how far inflation has to rise to prompt the Fed to act now it has adopted AIT.

Highlights on XRay this Week 

Read the full schedule of financial market analysis and training.

17.00 UTC 12-Oct Blonde Markets
18.00 UTC 13-Oct Webinar: Technical Indicators
09.00 UTC 13-Oct Earnings Season Daily
14.00 UTC 14-Oct Asset in Focus: Weekly Gold Forecast
17.00 UTC 15⁠-⁠Oct Election2020 Weekly

Top Earnings Reports this Week

Pre-Market 13-Oct Johnson & Johnson – Q3 2020
Pre-Market 13-Oct JPMorgan Chase & Co – Q3 2020
Pre-Market 13-Oct Citigroup – Q3 2020
Pre-Market 13-Oct BlackRock – Q3 2020
Pre-Market 14-Oct UnitedHealth – Q3 2020
Pre-Market 14-Oct Bank of America – Q3 2020
Tentative 14-Oct Goldman Sachs – Q3 2020
Pre-Market 15-Oct Morgan Stanley – Q3 2020
Pre-Market 15-Oct Walgreens Boots Alliance – Q4 2020

Key Events this Week

Watch out for the biggest events on the economic calendar this week. A full economic and corporate events calendar is available in the platform.

06.00 UTC 13-Oct UK Unemployment Rate / Claimant Count Change
09.00 UTC 13-Oct Eurozone / German ZEW Economic Sentiment
12.30 UTC 13-Oct US CPI
09.00 UTC 14-Oct Eurozone Industrial Production
00.30 UTC 15-Oct AU Employment Change / Unemployment Rate
12.30 UTC 15-Oct US Weekly Jobless Claims
14.30 UTC 15-Oct US EIA Natural Gas Storage Report
15.00 UTC 15-Oct US EIA Crude Oil Inventories Report
12.30 UTC 16-Oct US Retail Sales
14.00 UTC 16-Oct US Michigan Consumer Sentiment

Banks set to kick off US Q3 earnings season

Equities

The S&P 500 rose 8.5% to 3,363 over the third quarter, having hit an all-time of 3580 at the start of September, with an intraday peak at 3588. The market faced ongoing headwinds from the pandemic, but risk sentiment remained well supported through the quarter by fiscal and monetary policy.

A pullback in September erased the August rally but was largely seen as a necessary correction after an over-exuberant period of speculation and ‘hot’ money into a narrow range of stocks.

Q3 earnings come at important crossroads: Expectations for when any stimulus package will be agreed – and how big it should be – continue to drive a lot of the near-term price action, though the market has largely held its 3200-3400 range.

Elevated volatility is also expected around the Nov 3rd election. But next week we turn to earnings and the more mundane assessment of whether companies are actually making any money.

Banks kick off Q3 earnings season

Financials are in focus first: Citigroup and JPMorgan kick off the season formally on October 13th with Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo on the 14th. Morgan Stanley reports on Oct 15th, In Q2, the big banks reported broadly similar trends with big increases in loan loss provisions offset by some stunning trading earnings.

Wall Street beasts – JPM, Goldman Sachs, Citi, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America – posted near-record trading revenues in the second quarter with revenues for the five combined topping $33bn, the best in a decade. At the time, we argued that investors need to ask whether the exceptional trading revenues are all that sustainable, and whether there needs to be a much larger increase for bad debt provisions.

Meanwhile, whilst the broad economic outlook has not deteriorated over the quarter, it has become clear that the recovery will be slower than it first appeared. Moreover, during Q3 the Fed announced a shift to average inflation targeting that implies interest rates will be on the floor for many years to come, so there is little prospect of any relief for compressed net interest margins.

Meanwhile there is growing evidence of a real problem in the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) market as new appraisals are seeing large swatches of real estate being marked down, particularly in the hotels and retail sectors.

At the same time, the energy sector has gone through a significant restructuring as we have seen North American oil and gas chapter 11 filings gathering pace through the summer as energy prices remained low. There is a tonne of debt maturing next year but how much will be repaid?

Key questions for the banks

  • Did the jump in trading revenues in Q2 carry through in Q3? Jamie Dimon thought it would halve.
  • On a related note, did the options frenzy in August help any bank more than others – Morgan Stanley?
  • Have provisions for bad loans increased materially over the quarter?
  • How bad are credit card, home and business loans?
  • And how bad is the commercial property sector, especially hotels and retail as evidence from the CMBS market starts to look very rocky?
  • How are bad debts in oil & gas looking?
  • How are job cuts helping Citigroup lower costs; how will its entry into China make a difference to the outlook?
  • How does Wells Fargo manage without an investment arm to lean on? So far it’s been a bit of a mess.
  • Was Warren Buffett right to cut his stake in Wells Fargo and some other US banks? Buffett pulled out airlines first then banks.
  • What do banks think of never-ending ZIRP and does the Fed’s shift affect forecasts at all?
  • How is Morgan Stanley’s wealth management division cushioning any drop in trading revenues?
  • What progress on Citigroup’s risk management system troubles?

Q2 earnings recap

JPMorgan beat on the top and bottom line. Revenues topped $33.8bn vs the $30.5bn expected, whilst earnings per share hit $1.38 vs $1.01 expected. The range of estimates was vast, so the consensus numbers were always going to be a little out.

The bank earned $4.7bn of net income in the second quarter despite building $8.9 billion of credit reserves thanks to its highest-ever quarterly revenue. Loan loss provisions were $10.5bn, which was more than expected and the quarter included almost $9bn in reserve builds largely due to Covid-19.

The consumer bank reported a net loss of $176 million, compared with net income of $4.2 billion in the prior year, predominantly driven by reserve builds. Net revenue was $12.2 billion, down 9%. Credit card sales were 23% lower, with average loans down 7%, while deposits rose 20% as consumers deleveraged.

The provision for credit losses in the consumer bank was $5.8 billion, up $4.7 billion from the prior year driven by reserve builds, chiefly in credit cards.

Trading revenues were phenomenal, rising 80% with fixed income revenues doubling. Return on equity (ROE) rose to 7% from 4% in Q1 but was still well down on the 16% a year before. ROTE rose to 9% from 5% in the prior quarter but was down from 20% a year before.

Citigroup EPS beat at $0.50 vs the $0.28 expected. Trading revenues in fixed income rose 68%, and made up the majority of the $6.9bn in Markets and Securities Services revenues, which rose 48%. Equity trading revenue dipped 3% to $770 million. Consumer banking revenues fell 10% to $7.34 billion, while net credit losses, jumped 12% year over year to $2.2 billion. Net income was down 73% year-on-year.

Since then the bank has offloaded its retail options market making business, leaving Morgan Stanley (reporting Oct 15th) as the major player left in this market. We await to see what kind of impact the explosion in options trading witnessed over the summer had on both. ROE stood at just 2.4% and ROTE at 2.9%.

Wells Fargo – which does not have the investment banking arm to lean on – increased credit loss provisions in the quarter to $9.5bn from $4bn in Q1, vs expectations of about $5bn. WFG reported a $2.4 billion loss for the quarter as revenues fell 17.6% year-on-year.

CEO Charlie Scharf was not mincing his words: “We are extremely disappointed in both our second quarter results and our intent to reduce our dividend. Our view of the length and severity of the economic downturn has deteriorated considerably from the assumptions used last quarter, which drove the $8.4 billion addition to our credit loss reserve in the second quarter.”

Bank of America reported earnings of $3.5 billion, with EPS of $0.37 ahead of the $0.27 expected on revenues of $22bn. Its bond trading revenue rose 50% to $3.2 billion, whilst equities trading revenue climbed 7% to $1.2 billion. But the bank increased reserves for credit losses by $4 billion and suffered an 11% decline in interest income.

Return on equity (ROE) fell to 5.44% from 5.91% in the prior quarter and was down significantly from last year’s Q2 11.62%. Return on tangible equity (ROTE) slipped to 7.63% from 8.32% in Q1 2020 and from 16.24% in Q2 2019.

Morgan Stanley was probably the winner from Q2 as it reported net revenues of $13.4 billion for the second quarter compared with $10.2 billion a year ago. Net income hit $3.2 billion, or $1.96 per diluted share, compared with net income of $2.2 billion, or $1.23, for the same period a year ago.

Wealth Management delivered a pre-tax income of $1.1 billion with a pre-tax margin of 24.4%. Investment banking rose 39%, with Sales and Trading revenues up 68%. MS managed to increase its ROE to 15.7%, and the ROTE to 17.8% from respectively 11.2% and 12.8% in Q2 2019.

Goldman Sachs reported net revenues of $13.30 billion and net earnings of $2.42 billion for the second quarter. EPS of $6.26 destroyed estimates for $3.78. Bond trading revenue rose by almost 150% to $4.24 billion, whilst equities trading revenue was up 46% to $2.94 billion. ROE came in at 11.1% and ROTE at 11.8%.

Expectations

(source: Markets.com)

Bank Forecast Revenues (no of estimates)

 

Forecast EPS (no of estimates)

 

BOA $20.8bn (8) $0.5 (23)
GS $9.1bn (15) $5 (21)
WFG $17.9bn (17) $0.4 (24)
JPM $28bn (19) $2.1 (23)
MS $10.4bn (15) $1.2 (20)
C $18.5bn (17) $2 (21)

 

Shares

None have really managed to match the recovery in the broad market but valuations are compelling.

Goldman trading either side of 200-day EMA

Wells Fargo can’t catch any bid

Bank of America bound by 50-day SMA

Citigroup still nursing losses after reversal in September

JPM breakouts consistently fail to hold above 200-day EMA

Bank shares tumble on FinCEN files, travel stocks sank by lockdown fears

Morning Note

September blues continue: European markets shot lower in early trade on Monday after US stocks fell for a third week in a row – the first such sustained decline in a year. The FTSE 100 headed under 5,900 and the DAX gave up the 13,000 handle as risk aversion spread across equity markets.

The FTSE 100 plunged more than 2.5% lower to test the big September lows – the weakest since May – at 5850. On Friday the S&P 500 broke down at the 50-day simple moving average and closed at its weakest since early August.

Stocks hit by rising coronavirus case numbers, travel & leisure tumbles

Rising infection rates (I discussed the inherent problem with comparing the number of cases today with April and May) in Europe and the prospect of fresh lockdowns in the UK and elsewhere are a worry for investors – how quickly do we recover from the pandemic? A fresh round of flash PMIs this week ought to help tell us whether the momentum has faded.

Tighter rules are almost certain as the authorities flounder and seem unable to get any kind of consistently clear approach to the pandemic.  Travel and leisure was hit hard as new lockdowns and travel restrictions are an almost given heading into half term. Many stocks are now trading at multi-year lows– IAG and Rolls Royce both dropped 10% today, whilst Lloyds sank 6% to as low as 23p.

It’s a very nasty looking board this morning – as of 08.47 this morning.

Banks slump on FinCEN file leak

Banks are being whacked: HSBC, Barclays and Standard Chartered shares fell after being named in a report on trillions of dollars of suspicious transfers being funnelled through the banks. JPMorgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Barclays, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon were all named in the so-called FinCEN files.

The report from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists centres on more than 2,100 suspicious activity reports filed by banks and other financial firms with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which boasts Meryl Streep and Barbara Streisand among its supporters.

Whilst it is unclear to extent there will be a material impact on the banks in question, and whether the transactions are covered by existing DoJ deals and fines, it raises litigation and regulatory risk and we cannot rule out fines and charges being levied by various actors.

Either way, the stench of corruption and money laundering will linger over the largest banks for a long time. There were even reports HSBC may be added to China’s unreliable entity list.

Stakes raised again in US Presidential Election

As if it were even possible, the US presidential race just got a whole lot more interesting. The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg raises the stakes of the election and should energise the respective bases into action.

Whilst Trump has said he wants to install a replacement before the election, there is not much time and moderate Republicans may prevent it. A special election in Arizona in Nov ought to cut the Republican lead in the current Congress in half.

Democrats are horrified at the potential for a 6-3 conservative split on the Supreme Court that could stymie liberal reforms for decades. As we saw last time, presidential and Senate elections can take on a different complexion when a Supreme Court seat is up for grabs. If there is one on offer this time, conservatives and liberals on either side will be fired up to vote.

This could tip the Senate vote in favour of the Republicans but could dent Donald Trump’s chances of swinging some of the Rust Belt seats. Either way, this will only exacerbate the split between the two parties and make agreeing another round of stimulus before the election almost impossible.

Fed speakers watched closely as Congress stimulus hopes dwindle

Last week the Fed appeared to hand the economic recovery baton over to Congress, but with more fiscal stimulus not on the cards, focus on the central bankers will be high. A slew of Fed speakers this week, including Jay Powell, will be closely watched as to what they are trying to achieve and how they see the new monetary policy framework shift.

Watch Dallas Fed president Robert Kaplan, who dissented somewhat from last week’s statement, saying that he prefers the FOMC to ‘retain greater policy rate flexibility beyond that point’ at which the Fed’s ‘maximum employment and price stability goals’ have been reached. Kaplan at least is worried about ZIRP ad infinitum.

Andrew Bailey, the Bank of England governor, also gets two speeches this week to explain what the MPC meant by signalling negative rates are coming – the pound may be volatile should he seek to distance himself from this and carve out some greater policy flexibility.

Sterling will also be watching the passing of the internal market bill in the Commons today and tomorrow – whilst Tories are on board, the Lords is less keen. Quite what the EU makes of it passing will come in the trade deal wash towards the end of the month. GBPUSD dropped in early trade on Monday to test the 1.29 round number.

Finally, Trevor Milton has stepped down as executive chairman at Nikola after the electric carmaker was done up like a kipper by Hindenburg. It follows a pretty devastating research report from the short seller which accused Nikola of a web of lies.

Nikola’s response was weak and failed to address the bulk of the concerns raised by Hindenburg, which dubbed it a ‘tacit admission of securities fraud’. Mr Milton clearly didn’t feel in a good place to defend against these attacks. Former GM vice chairman Stephen Girsky is taking the helm.

Chart: Euro Stoxx finally breaks out of its narrow range and it’s to the downside

Banks lead European stocks higher

Morning Note

Asian shares soared overnight on Monday, lending a positive start to the European session as equities rode a broad risk rally. The very strong US nonfarm payrolls number continues to mask a lot of ills and investors are happy to hang their hopes on more stimulus.

Hong Kong rose 4%, Tokyo 2%, while shares on mainland China were up around 5% on, among other things, some bullish commentary in state press. Shanghai shares jumped 5.7%, the best one-day gain in five years.

It looks like local investors are chasing the market and the spill-over has lifted the boats across Asia. China’s rally sparked a broad risk-on move. Escalation of US-China tensions don’t seem to be a major worry.

Bank stocks surge as Europe opens higher

European shares took the baton and opened roughly 2% higher in early trade on Monday led by a surge in bank stocks. HSBC rallied 6% apparently on the China trade read across, but elsewhere we saw broad gains as investors looked to new leadership at Lloyds and Commerzbank, whilst hopes of a fiscal lift in Europe may be a factor. Broadly it looks like the Chinese rally has lifted cyclicals like banks and autos.

Eco data was better but not as good as hoped – German factory orders jumped 10.4% in May, although the rebound was less impressive than the 15% expected. Orders remain almost a third below where they were a year before. Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said on Sunday the country’s economy was bouncing back quicker than expected.

Meanwhile, Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, has written to UK banks warning of the operational challenges of negative rates (new computer systems, lower net interest margin). This could be taken either way; either it’s an explicit message to get ready, or it’s way of saying to them not to worry because we know it’s a massive pain. The letter said negative rates remain “one of the potential tools under active review” should the Bank think more stimulus is required.

The rally left the DAX close to the top of the June range, trading above 12,800. The FTSE is close to the 61.8% retrace of the pullback in the second week of June. US futures point towards strong gains when Wall Street reopens after the three-day weekend, with the S&P 500 moving clear of the 78.6% retracement. June peaks are starting to come into view and will be a key test for whether this rally has further to run or whether it’s time for a pullback.

Bets of further stimulus boost stocks

Whilst markets face a wall of worry, investors are confident of getting a leg up from further stimulus. Britain’s chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out a mini-Budget this week focused on jobs. A meeting of Eurozone finance ministers on Thursday will set the tone for the key July 17th-18th summit. Whilst the various countries disagree over the composition of grants and bailouts, on conditionality and over how the funds are divided up, Germany’s Angela Merkel is bound to make sure that a deal is done: the squabbling needs to stop.

Meanwhile the US Congress is set to work on a second stimulus bill this month. At the same time, Covid-19 cases continue to soar – markets are getting used to the numbers – but the pace of recovery in the US will flatten if rising cases means states re-impose lockdown restrictions. As noted last week, the headline number in the jobs report masked some ills, so we will again be very much focused on the weekly initial and continuing claims numbers this week.

Dollar softens, oil edges higher, Buffett bets on natural gas rebound

Elsewhere, the broad risk rally sent the dollar lower, with DXY at 96.80. Sterling pushed a little with GBPUSD back about 1.25, looking to break last week’s peak a little short of 1.2530. EURUSD was a whisker short of 1.13, entering the resistance formed by the July 2nd peak. Clearing this opens up the path to the Jun 23rd swing high at 1.1350. Market positioning remains quite aggressively short, with net speculative positions on the euro the most bearish in three years.

Crude oil was a little higher, with WTI (Aug) just about nudging the $41. Gold is steady at $1776, with the latest CFTC figures showing speculative net longs at the highest in two years. Finally, Warren Buffett is making a $10bn bet on natural gas prices rebounding – the veteran investor thinks the market, which hit a 25-year low last month, has bottomed, making assets cheap and is on course for a rebound.

Eurozone bank shares slip further on weak yields, eyes on Fed speeches

Equities

Eurozone bank shares are amongst the worst performing today. The sector has fallen 1% overall, greatly outpacing the wider market dip.

The biggest movers include Sabadell, with losses in the region of 1.1%, Credit Agricole, off 1.5%, UBI Banca, down 1.7%, and ABN Amro, also down 1.7%.

The sector has been hit by weak Eurozone government bond yields, which are currently hovering just above record lows. The German 10-year bund currently yields -0.311%. That’s just above the -0.329% record low seen last Tuesday.

All eyes are back on the Federal Reserve ahead of a set of speeches, including one from chair Jerome Powell during the US session.

Federal Open Market Committee members signalled after last week’s policy meeting that a rate cut was on the way. This wasn’t enough for President Donald Trump, who responded that the Fed “blew it”. The President called a few months ago for 100 basis points of cuts and the reintroduction of quantitative easing.

Markets are waiting to see whether the Fed will bow to pressure and crank up the dovish rhetoric. President Jerome Powell has so far had little time for the President’s attempts to intervene. But with market expectations racing way ahead of what the data and policymakers themselves would suggest is necessary and a President intent on getting a weaker dollar to help him in his trade battle with China, can the Fed afford to go at its own pace?

Elsewhere stocks were holding near opening levels, with losses capped by the merger of two of the biggest business consultancies in Europe. The deal sees Capgemini purchasing Altran for €3.6 billion. Shares of Capgemini are up 7% to trade at a 2-month high, while Altran shares, reflecting the selling price, have shot up 21%.

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