Bank ETFs Surge: Will The Momentum Last?

Finally, the battered banking stocks found reasons to turn around. As soon as the April Fed minutes hinted at a June rate hike possibility, banking along with many other financial stocks rallied on May 18. The going was tough for bank stocks and ETFs for quite some time mainly due to the twin attacks of a delay in further Fed rate hike after a liftoff in December and the energy sector slump. But things are now falling in space for this woe-begotten sector.

Hawkish Tone in Fed Minutes

Citing plenty of positive drivers in the market, including a healing labor market, a bullish inflation outlook, strong retail, consumer sentiment and housing data, the Fed minutes brought back the sooner-than-expected rate hike talks on the table.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note jumped 11 bps to 1.87% on May 18, while the yield on the 2-year U.S. Treasury note rose 8 bps to 0.90%. This steepening of the yield curve was a tailwind for banking stocks as these improve banks' net interest margins. This is because that the interest rates on deposits are usually tied to short-term rates while loans are often tied to long-term rates.

Revival in Oil Prices 
U.S. banks have significant exposure to the long-beleaguered energy sector where chances of credit default are higher. In February, the S&P cut its outlook on several regional banks with substantial energy sector exposure, citing a likely increase in non-performing assets.
Among the biggies, Wells Fargo reported around $42 billion oil and gas credit in February. The situation was the same for J.P. Morgan, the energy loan of which accounts for 57% of the investment-grade paper. J.P. Morgan’s $44 billion energy sector exposure was a cause of concern given the below-$30-oil-per-barrel mark a few months back.
However, those days of crisis seem to have passed with oil prices showing an impressive rally lately and hovering around a seven-month high on falling supplies and the possibility of rising demand. Political imbalance in countries like Nigeria and Venezuela and expected moderation in shale boom should put a brake in the supply glut. This increased hopes for a revival in the energy sector which in turn is likely to benefit the banking sector too.

JP Morgan Ups Dividend 

This leading financial firm announced a dividend hike on May 17, 2016 after the market closed. The company declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.48 per share, representing a more than 9% rise over the prior payout. Per analysts, the strength in its consumer businesses helped the bank to opt for this. JPM shares jumped about 3.9% in the key trading session of May 18, benefitting the ETFs that invest heavily in JPM.

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