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How’s the Consumer Doing? Financial Sector Earnings Next Week Could Help Tell Us

Key Takeaways:

  • Big banks to kick off reporting season the week of October 14
  • Earnings for sector expected to fall slightly, analysts say
  • Brexit, trade, consumer health on topic list for Financial earnings calls

During Q2 earnings season, Financial sector results helped renew investor confidence in the U.S. consumer.

The question heading into Q3 is whether banking executives still see the same kind of strength, and if they think it can continue amid trade wars, Brexit, and signs of weakness in the U.S. economy.

Over the last three months, as the broader stock market rallied to an all-time high, slammed the brakes, and then re-tested earlier peaks, consumer health arguably did much of the heavy lifting. It felt like every time stocks pulled back, they got a second wind from retail sales, housing or some other data or earnings news that showed consumers still out there buying.

Today In: Money

The banks played a huge role in setting the stage by reporting better-than-expected Q2 results that showed signs of strong consumer demand even as some of the banks’ trading divisions took a hit. Next week, six of the biggest banks come back to talk about their Q3 experience and what they expect for Q4. Analysts expect Financial sector earnings to drop slightly in Q3.

That said, most of the major banking names have done an excellent job keeping costs in check as they wrestle with fundamental industry headwinds like falling interest rates and slowing revenue from their trading divisions. This time out, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more of the same, and you can’t rule out a bit more vigor from the trading business thanks to all the volatility we saw in the markets last quarter.

Earnings growth may not be there for Financials this time around, or it could be negligible. At the end of the day, though, Financial companies are still likely to be remarkably profitable considering a yield curve that remains relatively flat and global macroeconomic concerns, according to Briefing.com. This sector knows how to make money, but it might just not make as much as it did a year ago. Earnings will likely show large banking companies still in good financial condition with the U.S. consumer generally in decent shape for now, as the U.S. economy arguably remains the best-kept house on a tough block.

Investors have started to pick up on all this, judging from the S&P 500 Financial sector’s good health over the last month and year to date. The sector is up 3.4% from a month ago to easily lead all sectors over that time period, and up 15% since the start of 2019. The 15% gain is below the SPX’s 17% year-to-date pace, but it’s an improvement after a few years when Financials generally didn’t participate as much in major market rallies.

What to Listen For

No one necessarily planned it, but it’s helpful in a way that banks report early in the earnings season. Few other industries have larger megaphones or the ability to set the tone like the biggest financial institutions can. The other sectors are important, too, but they often see things from their own silos. Combined, the big banks have a view of the entire economy and all the industries, as well as what consumers and investors are doing. Their positive remarks last quarter didn’t really give Financial stocks an immediate lift, but it did apparently help reassure investors who were nervous about everything from trade wars to Brexit.

Going into Q3 earnings, those same issues dog the market, and bank executives have a front-row seat. How do they see trade negotiations playing out? Can consumers hold up if trade negotiations start to go south? How’s the consumer and corporate credit situation? Will weakness in Europe spread its tentacles more into the U.S.? And is there anything bank CEOs think the Fed or Congress can do to fend off all these challenges?

On another subject closer to the banks’ own business outlook, what about the shaky initial public offering (IPO) situation? That’s getting a closer look as a few recent IPOs haven’t performed as well as some market participants had expected. One question is whether other potential IPOs might get cold feet, potentially hurting businesses for some of the major investment banks.

All the big bank calls are important, but JP Morgan Chase (JPM) on Tuesday morning might stand out. Last time, CEO Jamie Dimon said he saw positive momentum with the U.S. consumer, and his words helped ease concerns about the economic outlook. More words like that this time out might be well timed when you consider how nervous many investors seem to be right now. On the other hand, if Dimon doesn’t sound as positive, that’s worth considering, too.

While few analysts see a recession in the works—at least in the short term—bank executives might be asked if they’re starting to see any slowdown in lending, which might be a possible sign of the economy putting on the brakes. Softer manufacturing sector data over the last few months and falling capital investment by businesses could provide subject matter on the big bank earnings calls.

Regionals Vs. Multinationals

While big banks like JPM operate around the world and might be particularly attuned to the effects of trade, regional banks make most of their loans within the U.S., potentially shielding them from overseas turbulence.

Regional banks also might provide a deeper view into what consumers are doing in the housing and credit card markets. With rates still near three-year lows, we’ve seen some data suggest a bump in the housing sector lately, and that’s been backed by solid earnings data out of that industry. If regional banks report more borrowing demand, that would be another sign pointing to potential strength in consumer sentiment. Refinancing apparently got a big lift over the last few months, and now we’ll hear if banks saw any benefit.

One possible source of weakness, especially for some of the regional players, could be in the oil patch. With crude prices and Energy sector earnings both under pressure, there’s been a big drop in the number of rigs drilling for oil in places like Texas over the last few months, according to energy industry data. That could potentially weigh on borrowing demand. Also, the manufacturing sector is looking sluggish, if recent data paint an accurate picture, maybe hurting results from regional banks in the Midwest. It might be interesting to hear if bank executives are worried more about the U.S. manufacturing situation.

Another challenge for the entire sector is the rate picture. The Fed lowered rates twice since banks last reported, and the futures market is penciling in another rate cut as pretty likely for later this month. Lower rates generally squeeze banks’ margins. If rates drop, banks simply can’t make as much money.

The 10-year Treasury yield has fallen from last autumn’s high above 3.2% to recent levels just above 1.5% amid fears of economic sluggishness and widespread predictions of central bank rate cuts. The long trade standoff between China and the U.S. has also contributed to lower yields as many investors pile into defensive investments like U.S. Treasuries, cautious about the growth outlook.

Another thing on many investors’ minds is the current structure of the yield curve. The 10-year and two-year yields inverted for a stretch in Q3, typically an indication that investors believe that growth will be weak. That curve isn’t inverted now, but it remains historically narrow. Still, some analysts say the current low five-year and two-year yields might mean healthy corporate credit, maybe a good sign for banks.

Q3 Financial Sector Earnings

Analysts making their Q3 projections for the Financial sector expect a slowdown in earnings growth from Q2. Forecasting firm FactSet pegs Financial sector earnings to fall 1.8%, which is worse than its previous estimate in late September for a 0.9% drop. By comparison, Financial earnings grew 5.2% in Q2, way better than FactSet’s June 30 estimate for 0.6% growth.

Revenue for the Financial sector is expected to fall 1.6% in Q3, down from 2.6% growth in Q2, FactSet said.

While estimates are for falling earnings and revenue, the Financial sector did surprise last quarter with results that exceeded the average analyst estimate. You can’t rule out a repeat, but last time consumer strength might have taken some analysts by surprise. Now, consumer strength in Q3 seems like a given, with the mystery being whether it can last into Q4.

Upcoming Earnings Dates:

  • Citigroup (C) – Tuesday, October 15
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) – Tuesday, October 15
  • Wells Fargo (WFC) – Tuesday, Oct. 15, (B)
  • Goldman Sachs (GS) – Tuesday, October 15
  • Bank of America (BAC) – Wednesday, October 16
  • Morgan Stanley (MS) – Thursday, October 17

TD Ameritrade® commentary for educational purposes only. Member SIPC.

I am Chief Market Strategist for TD Ameritrade and began my career as a Chicago Board Options Exchange market maker, trading primarily in the S&P 100 and S&P 500 pits. I’ve also worked for ING Bank, Blue Capital and was Managing Director of Option Trading for Van Der Moolen, USA. In 2006, I joined the thinkorswim Group, which was eventually acquired by TD Ameritrade. I am a 30-year trading veteran and a regular CNBC guest, as well as a member of the Board of Directors at NYSE ARCA and a member of the Arbitration Committee at the CBOE. My licenses include the 3, 4, 7, 24 and 66.

Source: How’s the Consumer Doing? Financial Sector Earnings Next Week Could Help Tell Us

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JP Morgan Chase: https://www.zacks.com/stock/quote/JPM… PNC Bank: https://www.zacks.com/stock/quote/PNC… US Bank: https://www.zacks.com/stock/quote/USB… Banks are usually at the front of earnings season and help to set the tone for the rest of the market. However, with a terrible interest rate outlook, can the space still post good profits and give us a positive lead-off for this earnings season? Follow us on StockTwits: http://stocktwits.com/ZacksResearch Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZacksResearch Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ZacksInvestm…

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Why Use a Blockchain? By Maria Kuznetsov

As the implications of the invention of have become understood, a certain hype has sprung up around blockchain technology.

This is, perhaps, because it is so easy to imagine high-level use cases. But, the technology has also been closely examined: millions of dollars have been spent researching blockchain technology over the past few years, and numerous tests for whether or not blockchain technology is appropriate in various scenarios have been conducted.

Blockchain technology offers new tools for authentication and authorization in the digital world that preclude the need for many centralized administrators. As a result, it enables the creation of new digital relationships.

By formalizing and securing new digital relationships, the blockchain revolution is posed to create the backbone of a layer of the internet for transactions and interactions of value (often called the ‘Internet of Value’, as opposed to the ‘Internet of Information’ which uses the client-server, accounts and master copy databases we’ve been using for over the past 20 years.)

But, with all the talk of building the digital backbone of a new transactional layer to the internet, sometimes blockchains, private cryptographic keys and cryptocurrencies are simply not the right way to go.

Many groups have created flowcharts to help a person or entity decide between a blockchain or master copy, client-server database. The following factors are a distillation of much of what has been previously done:

Is the data dynamic with an auditable history?

Paper can be hard to counterfeit because of the complexity of physical seals or appearances. Like etching something in stone, paper documents have certain permanence.

But, if the data is in constant flux, if it is transactions occurring regularly and frequently, then paper as a medium may not be able to keep up the system of record. Manual data entry also has human limitations.

So, if the data and its history are important to the digital relationships they are helping to establish, then blockchains offer a flexible capacity by enabling many parties to write new entries into a system of record that is also held by many custodians.

Should or can the data be controlled by a central authority?

There remain many reasons why a third party should be in charge of some authentications and authorizations. There are times when third-party control is totally appropriate and desirable. If privacy of the data is the most important consideration, there are ways to secure data by not even connecting it to a network.

But if existing IT infrastructure featuring accounts and log-ins is not sufficient for the security of digital identity, then the problem might be solved by blockchain technology.

As Satoshi Nakamoto wrote in his (or her) seminal work, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”: “Merchants must be wary of their customers, hassling them for more information than they would otherwise need. A certain percentage of fraud is accepted as unavoidable.”

Private key cryptography enables push transactions, which don’t require centralized systems and the elaborate accounts used to establish digital relationships. If this database requires millions of dollars to secure lightweight financial transactions, then there’s a chance blockchains are the solution.

Is the speed of the transaction the most important consideration?

Does this database require high-performance millisecond transactions? (There is more on this point in our guide: “What is the Difference Between a Blockchain and a Database?”).

If high performance, millisecond transactions are what is required, then it’s best to stick with a traditional-model centralized system. Blockchains as databases are slow and there is a cost to storing the data – the processing (or ‘mining’) of every block in a chain. Centralized data systems based on the client-server model are faster and less expensive… for now.

In short, while we still don’t know the full limits and possibilities of blockchains, we can at least say the use cases which have passed inspection have all been about managing and securing digital relationships as part of a system of record.

Authored by Nolan Bauerle; images by Maria Kuznetsov

Source: Why Use a Blockchain? – CoinDesk

JP Morgan unveils its own cryptocurrency | Crypto Insider

J.P. Morgan might seem like the most unlikely party to create a cryptocurrency asset. Jamie Dimon, J.P. Morgan’s CEO, is known for his negativity toward bitcoin. In a September 2017 article, Fortune reported on Dimon calling BTC “a fraud.” Although, the same article included details of Dimon’s apparent positive sentiment toward blockchain technology solutions, as seen in J.P. Morgan’s previous research and projects in the field.

Source: JP Morgan unveils its own cryptocurrency | Crypto Insider

Dutch Banking Group, ING Eyes Blockchain-Based Initiatives in 2019

https://www.pivot.one/share/post/5c271191595ce7166df14e66?uid=5bd49f297d5fe7538e6111b6&invite_code=JTOJYV

No More Banks or FICO Reports? Economist Describes Ways Blockchain Technology Will Change How We Allocate Credit

In our lifetime we will see many of the traditional banks and credit reporting systems become irrelevant as blockchain technology brings about a radical transformation of the institutional nature of our banking system – a system that is based on a centralized ledger to manage transactions, says Virginia Tech economist David Bieri.

According to Bieri, “the distributed ledger technology of the blockchain offers new ways of economic coordination and governance whereby a information flows are shared almost instantaneously across all participants in a networked system, opening the door for new possibilities such as de-nationalized currencies and a radical democratization of different forms of trust.”

Bieri is an associate professor at Virginia Tech who has also held positions in central banking across the globe.

Quoting Bieri

“The information monopoly of the three credit bureaus is rapidly being dismantled as big data and AI allow fintech companies to engineer something that is much more accurate than the FICO score, from the social media and other personal information they have on you. Several fintech companies are already basing their lending information on this. It has similar logic to FICO, but is based off of their proprietary information.”

“There is significant power in the distributed network because in order for someone to tamper with it they would need to change every copy at the same time and hack every computer separately. Because this is much harder to do than hack a central single location, it makes the data more secure.”

Background and research

Bieri is leading a collaborative research project with two of the largest blockchain-based fintech consortia, R3 and Hyperledger, to develop standards as well as examine how the banking system is reorganizing itself to embrace blockchain, the very thing that might render it obsolete. Project Information – “Disruption, Dislocation or Delusion? Fintech and the Digital Macrofoundations of the Next Global Financial Order” (David Bieri and Giselle Datz)

About Bieri

David Bieri is an associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs and in the department of economics at Virginia Tech. His current research examines the dynamics of financialization and its role in the process of urbanization. He also writes about regulatory aspects of international finance and global monetary governance. Previously, Bieri held positions in central banking at the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland and in investment banking in London.

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