Mounting Loan Defaults Mid-Corona – XLF A Sell?

Earnings season kicked off last week with big banks like Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs delivering Q3 earnings for Q3/2020 and giving some first insights into their business and revenues Mid-Corona.

While Goldman Sachs delivered some strong numbers, Wells Fargo (WFC) and Bank of America (BAC) disappointed.

Trading houses like Goldman outperform "classic" banks like Wells Fargo

Goldman Sachs earnings came in significantly above the expectation of $5.37 Earnings per Share (EPS) at $9.68 and revenue at $10.78 billion against $9.19 billion.

In general, it seems as if chances are high that US banks with a focus on trading continue to profit from the elevated volatility Mid-Coronavirus and before the US election.

But given recent developments around the Coronavirus lockdown, the focus in the US banking and financial sector will likely be more on those banks which are more defined by interest rates, consumer banking and commercial real estate since these will potentially paint a clearer picture on what to expect in terms of the US economic outlook.

That said, a look at Wells Fargo, one of the biggest US banks, seems to make more sense:

  • Wells Fargo's total revenue of $18.86 billion was down 14 year-over-year, but slightly above expectations of $17.98 billion
  • That didn't help in terms of EPS, which came in at $0.42 against an expected $0.45
  • Wells Fargo "only" set aside $769 million for credit losses in Q3, down from a staggering $9.5 billion in Q2/2020 and well below a FactSet estimate of $1.76 billion

CEO Scharf told investors that "[…]The trajectory of the economic recovery remains unclear as the negative impact of COVID continues and further fiscal stimulus is uncertain[…]".

That sceptical outlook can also be seen in presented earnings from Bank of America:

  • EPS was $0.51 against $0.53
  • The bank set aside $1.4 billion for loan loss provisions, against $5.1 billion in Q2/2020
  • Net interest income is down 17%, coming in at $10.1 billion.
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