What’s With 1st Quarters and Let’s Look at Financial Sector Earnings for 2H ’16

Has anyone else noticed how volatile the first quarter has been the last 3 years ?

In 2014, it was Russia driving tanks into Ukraine, the Venezuelan devaluation and profit-taking after the 32% increase in the SP in 2013.

In 2015, it was falling crude oil, falling commodities, West Coast Port slowdown, strong dollar and even weather in February ’15.

In 2016, the volatility is the result of Financial stock volatility, European bank worries, negative interest rates, etc.

Not one of the last three Q1’s seems to be driven at all by the US economy and worries therein. Jobless claims remain strong.

So what gives ? What is it with the first quarter every year ?

I don’t know, but it is always something.

What is happening with Financial sector earnings ? 

Well, according to Thomson Reuters data, Financial sector earnings are now expected to be negative for Q1 and Q2 ’16, and with Financials as a sector being 20% of the SP 500 by market cap, to go from mid to high single-digit expected earnings growth to now negative earnings growth, well it is (another) drag on the SP 500.

Wouldn’t it be something if crude stabilizes, Energy sector estimates start to stabilize and then Financial’s take gas ? However the two are tied at the hip. Given JP Morgan’s Investor Day this week where reserves were increased for the Energy loan book and write-downs increased, just 5 weeks after JPM reports Q4 ’15 earnings, and guided to Energy losses, it looks like the Financial sector particularly the banking system is girding for more Energy losses in the loan books.

Here is your progression for Financial sector earnings: FC – Finclsectorearningstrends22516

What fascinates me about the attached spreadsheet is that given the progression by quarters for 2016, the Street was already expecting a weak Q1 and Q2 ’16 for Financial sector earnings growth, even before Q4 ’15 earnings started getting reported, and certainly even before worries about Energy loans in the banking system really got traction in the media.

Could this be just normal pullback for the sector ? It could but 20% – 30% price declines for Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, etc, do seem extreme.

Also note, the 2nd half and full-year 2016 growth for Financial’s – if those growth rates come even close to expected percentage growth rates today, it would not be a bad year for Financial’s.

(By the way, the spreadsheet table shows Thomson’s “expected” earnings growth rate for the Financial sector, for each quarter, by week, starting on January 1 ’16, and includes full-year 2016 sector estimates.)

Unlike the Energy sector, where full-year 2016 “expected” earnings growth has fallen from -10% on January 1, to -50% as of today, Financial sector full-year earnings growth has fallen to 7.2% today, as of 9.9% as of January 1 ’16.

Financial’s look like a buy here, BUT I’m waiting to see if how the SP 500 resolves this pullback. Guggenheim’s CIO called for a 1% 10-year yield – a flat yield curve wont be received well by the banking system.

The indices are sitting at critical technical levels. (Check the chart in the latest blog post.)

More Energy was purchased for client accounts this week, mainly the IYE, XLE. Long a little XOM too.

Thanks for reading.


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