Rising interest rates and lower tax rates have analysts calling for 2018 to be the year of the banks. Analysts at Barclays are forecasting a 20% boost in the stock prices of the biggest U.S. banks for this year with momentum likely carrying over into next year as well. Two of their favorites include JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Citigroup Inc. (C), while Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) is set to “catch-up” from last year’s poor performance, according to Barron’s.
Shares of both JPMorgan and Citigroup rose more than 25% over the course of this past year, far outperforming Goldman’s less than 8% rise. JPMorgan is trading at a price-to-book ratio (P/B Ratio) of 1.63 as of the most recent quarter (MRQ), Citigroup is trading at a P/B ratio of 0.96, and Goldman is trading at a 1.30 multiple. The average P/B ratio of the Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF) is currently sitting at 1.55.
New Year, New Economic Environment
The Barclays analysts point to growing GDP and lower unemployment as signs of an improving economic backdrop that will help to give banks a lift. As the economy grows banks should find themselves loaning more, and with rising interest rates, they should be able to increase their net interest margins. Of course, the reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% will also help boost earnings, as banks are able to retain more of their revenues.
While this economic backdrop will help, JPMorgan is also working on improving its relations with its customers by imitating some of the ways that Amazon treats their loyal customers. If offering special perks to loyal customers works, the U.S. banking giant could steal some business away from competitors. (To read more, see: What JPMorgan CEO Dimon Is Learning From Amazon.)
Citigroup looks good from a valuation perspective with a P/B ratio well below the average for the financial sector as a whole. Having outperformed analysts’ expectations for last quarter’s earnings report, Citi was a favored pick for Strategas Research Partners back in October 2017. (To read more, see: 4 Bank Stocks to Buy Now: Strategas Partners.)
Bove Now Bullish on Goldman
As for Goldman Sachs, noted bank analyst Dick Bove recently reversed his bearish call for the underperforming Wall Street giant. Now is the time to start buying, Bove told CNBC in an interview last week.
All of the businesses that Goldman is a leader in—mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and initial public offerings (IPO)—are starting to pick-up. The bank has a 26.5% foothold in the $3.7 trillion M&A business, which it grew from last year’s 25.6% stake, and Goldman is also among the top five underwriters of global IPOs, according to data from Dealogic reported by CNBC.
For what it’s worth, however, Bove still thinks CEO Llyod Blankfein needs to be given the boot.