Comerica (NYSE:CMA) is a curious bank in multiple respects. Although it has a sizable commercial loan book, the net interest margin isn't all that impressive. On the other hand, this looks like one of the most asset-sensitive of the larger banks, and income could accelerate relatively quickly if rates head meaningfully higher. All things considered, while I think Comerica's market position in Texas and California is worth more than average, I think the shares don't offer all that much promise unless you have a firm belief that the company can generate significantly better long-term returns on equity than the sell-side presently expects.
Another Familiar Pattern In Second Quarter Earnings
Add Comerica to the list of banks reporting okay net interest income and beating quarterly estimates on the basis of fee income and lower credit costs. Commerce Bancshares (Nasdaq:CBSH) actually reported the opposite, but other banks like Bank of the Ozarks (Nasdaq:OZRK), Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) and Citigroup (NYSE:C) have been following this basic pattern for the second quarter.
SEE: Citigroup Continues The Theme Of Decent Big Bank Earnings

Operating revenue declined 2% from the year-ago level, but rose about 1% sequentially. Net interest income declined slightly on a sequential basis as the net interest margin ticked lower (down 5bp) on lower purchase accretion. Again, that slim sequential decline was consistent with Wells Fargo and Citigroup's experiences. Fee income rose 5% sequentially and expenses were flat, leading to a 4% sequential improvement in adjusted pre-provision earnings. 
Growth Is Still Lacking
Comerica saw just 1% sequential loan growth, better than Wells Fargo and Citigroup, but weaker than Commerce (which also focuses on commercial lending and is looking to grow its loan book in Texas). Commercial lending was up about 2% over all, though commercial real estate lending was softer. Deposits declined 2% (on an end-of-period basis), marking the second straight sequential decline. With Comercia's capital position on the weaker side of “okay” (at least relative to peers), I'm starting to wonder if this softness in deposits will constrain lending capacity at some point or force the company to turn to more expensive wholesale/borrowed sources of funds.
Quality Improving, But Capital May Be A Little Thin
Comerica reported some solid improvements in multiple credit metrics. Non-performing loans declined 38% from the year-ago level and 9% from the first quarter, and the non-performing asset ratio declined again (from 1.78%/1.18% in the prior year/quarter to 1.05%) - far below the level of Citi and Wells, but more than double the rate of Commerce. The net charge-off ratio dropped again (from 0.42%/0.22% to 0.15%) and is very low.
The reserves are interesting, though. While the decline in non-performing loans has lifted the reserve/NPL percentage to almost 137% (from 93% a year ago), the reserves-to-loans ratio of 1.35% looks a little thin to me, particularly as the the Tier 1 common ratio of 10.4% isn't exactly a peer-leading number. That said, Comerica did fine in the Fed's stress test earlier this year and has the all-clear to return capital to shareholders, which is a meaningful detail in a growth-poor banking industry.
SEE: Foreclosure Activity Tumbles In 1H

The Bottom Line
With close to 10% of Comerica's loan book going to car dealers, Comerica should be taking advantage of a pretty healthy car market in the U.S. Likewise, the company's position in the energy sector ought to be a positive assuming the North American energy market has indeed seen its trough. And as I mentioned earlier, this is a lender with above-average leverage to higher rates, as about 80% of the portfolio is variable rate (with about 70% indexed to 30-day LIBOR). 
There aren't too many cheap bank stocks left, though, and Comerica isn't one of them. A 10% estimate for long-term ROE suggests a fair value today in the low-to-mid $30s, and you have to go up to about 13% to get a target ahead of today's price. While Comerica's geographically concentrated business may give it an above-average chance of returning to the higher ROEs of yesteryear, I still think that's a pretty bold assumption to use today. On the other hand, the company's return on tangible assets suggests a fair price/tangible book value multiple of around 1.4x, which implies a fair value of about $47. So not unlike Citi, there seems to be a dichotomy in how the market is viewing/valuing the long-term prospects for some of these banks.
While I think Comerica is a relatively good way to play higher rates, I think at least some of that expectation is already built into the stock price today. With mediocre loan growth and still above-average expenses, I'll continue to be on the sidelines with this stock.

Related Articles
  1. Stock Analysis

    5 Cheap Dividend Stocks for a Bear Market

    Here are five stocks that pay safe dividends and should be at least somewhat resilient to a bear market.
  2. Investing

    How to Win More by Losing Less in Today’s Markets

    The further you fall, the harder it is to climb back up. It’s a universal truth that is painfully apparent in the investing world.
  3. Fundamental Analysis

    Use Options Data To Predict Stock Market Direction

    Options market trading data can provide important insights about the direction of stocks and the overall market. Here’s how to track it.
  4. Stock Analysis

    2 Oil Stocks to Buy Right Now (PSX,TSO)

    Can these two oil stocks buck the trend?
  5. Investing News

    What Alcoa’s (AA) Breakup Means for Investors

    Alcoa plans to split into two companies. Is this a bullish catalyst for investors?
  6. Stock Analysis

    Top 3 Stocks for the Coming Holiday Season

    If you want to buck the bear market trend by going long on consumer stocks, these three might be your best bets.
  7. Investing News

    Could a Rate Hike Send Stocks Higher?

    A rate hike would certainly alter the investment scene, but would it be for the better or worse?
  8. Investing News

    Corporate Bonds or Stocks: Which is Better Now?

    With market volatility high, you may think it is time to run for corporate bonds instead of stocks. Before you do take a deeper look into which is better.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Using Short ETFs to Battle a Down Market

    Instead of selling your stocks to get gains, consider a short selling strategy, specifically one that uses short ETFs that help manage the risk.
  10. Investing Basics

    How to Diversify with International Stocks

    Diversifying with international stocks can benefit most portfolios, but beware of country risk.
  1. How do dividends affect retained earnings?

    When a company issues a cash dividend to its shareholders, the retained earnings listed on the balance sheet are reduced ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital?

    The difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital is investors have already paid in full for paid-up ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Why would a corporation issue convertible bonds?

    A convertible bond represents a hybrid security that has bond and equity features; this type of bond allows the conversion ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How does additional paid in capital affect retained earnings?

    Both additional paid-in capital and retained earnings are entries under the shareholders' equity section of a company's balance ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What types of capital are not considered share capital?

    The money a business uses to fund operations or growth is called capital, and there are a number of capital sources available. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between issued share capital and subscribed share capital?

    The difference between subscribed share capital and issued share capital is the former relates to the amount of stock for ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!