Buying banks can be 'dangerous investing'

Bread-and-butter banking business has been slow, and analyst Dick Bove worries that the regulatory environment could make matters worse.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 26, 2013 2:32PM

Bank sign © John Foxx, Stockbyte, Getty ImagesCNBCBy Jeff Cox


Analyst Dick Bove is one of the market's biggest advocates for bank stocks, but he is worried that investors may be getting a little too enthusiastic.


While financial sector companies on the S&P 500 have shown 24% earnings growth for the second quarter, Bove noted that not all profits are created equally.


In this particular round, banks have racked up strong profits on non-core areas such as accounting changes and one-off items such as sales of assets.


As for core assets, though, the results been less than impressive. Bread-and-butter banking business has been slow, and Bove has worried that the regulatory environment could make matters worse for the 28 large banks he rates.


Consequently, investors need to choose carefully.


"The second quarter results of these companies indicate that for the vast majority there was no improvement in core earnings but a significant improvement in reported earnings," Bove said in a note to clients. "In the past four years, if these banks reported earnings in this fashion, the 'shorts' would have and were all over their stocks, arguing that the companies were still deeply troubled and that these companies had no future."


Instead, investors have continued to scoop up bank stocks, pushing the KBW Bank Index ($BKX) up nearly 12% since the late-June trough.


That has occurred even as lending has dried up -- JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Citigroup (C) reported actual declines for the past quarter despite stellar profits -- and the trading business becomes an ever-tougher proposition.


Psychology, Bove said, has trumped analysis.


"The psychology of the past four years was that banks could do no right and the stocks should be sold," he said. "The psychology today is that banks can do no wrong and the stocks are being aggressively purchased. What stimulated the difference in attitude is a long-term view of economic and financial developments."


The previous psychology was that banks would have a hard time generating earnings.


The new psychology is that "banks have meaningful earnings power," Bove said.


"Which view is correct? I think, as I have for the past four years, that these stocks are still cheap and that they should be bought," he said.


But, he added, "when assessing the companies...look for those that have shown core earnings growth. However, at this moment, it appears that any bank stock will do as long as it has the name bank in it. That is dangerous investing."


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Tags: CJPM
Jul 26, 2013 5:26PM
When will the buffoons stop hiding behind the Regulatory excuses? Big Banks have been living off the Government Dime for Decades and they still cry about regulations. What a freaking joke.
Jul 27, 2013 6:50AM
Probably the worst thing going for a 'bread & butter' bank is being associated with big commercialized banks. Keyword- bank. We actually need grassroots banks with real ability and experience helping to rebuild communities. These types of banks need strong mature people with integrity, not degrees and I-Phones. Once the actual foundation of America (communities) begin to heal, people will pull all they have out of big banks and let them rot with all the derivatives, debt notes and GOP PACs they pushed on us during this time. When you think about all the pain, corruption and damage big & superregional banks have done to America, THEY should no longer be called- banks at all. The keyword- crooked is better suited. Crooked Chase. Crooked Bank of America. Crooked Citi. It provides a permanent warning that- once you begin a relationship with them, it won't end well. By the way... anyone check the Bauer Financial Index on your bank? During this whole debacle, smaller family-run or 'bread & butter' banks held some of the highest ratings. So which is most important- bells, whistles, redundant ads and as many branches as Starbuck Coffee Shops... or a reputation of excellent through one of the worst periods in American History? Smaller banks know integrity. Big banks know how to rip us off.
Jul 27, 2013 7:48AM
The best way to rob a bank is to own one.

The Federal Reserve has been bailing out banks for their sub-prime mortgages and reckless gambling on over-leveraged instruments called derivatives, aka Financial Weapons of Mass Destruction.

All the bail outs make Jaime Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, this countries largest welfare recipient.

Jul 28, 2013 12:16PM
So investing in banks that take your mortgage payments, take your PMI payments, take your house, then take a bailout isn't the wisest thing to do? Who woulda thunk it?
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