Bank of America just put out a weird warning that caught our eye. The bank—the largest retail bank in the US—said that it may face “substantial costs” as it deals with cryptocurrencies. In its SEC filing, the bank warned that cryptos were one of its risk factors for investors. The bank elaborated, saying “The widespread adoption of new technologies, including internet services, cryptocurrencies and payment systems, could require substantial expenditures to modify or adapt our existing products and services”.
FINSUM: Was this reference to some future risk of business disruption, or does BofA have some exposure to cryptos that is not well understood? Certainly something to pay attention to.
Morgan Stanley went on the record yesterday arguing that market liquidity will likely vanish in the event of turmoil. The bank says that the reduction in bank participation in trading, brought on by post-Crisis regulation, has led to “shadow banks” taking up the burden of liquidity. Such shadow banks including entities like professional trading firms, hedge funds etc. However, Morgan Stanley points out that this type of liquidity provider has never been tested in a tumultuous market, and that liquidity is likely to vanish.
FINSUM: While there may be some truth to it, banks love to over play the amount of liquidity they provide in periods of turmoil. When the market gets ugly, they tighten up just like everyone else.
Goldman Sachs has stuck to its guns with its trading division despite numerous changes to the industry and its competitors revamping. However, the bank finally appears to be changing its strategy. Since 2009, Goldman’s fixed income trading revenue has shrunk from over $23 bn in 2009, to just over $5 bn in 2017. Now the bank is changing its focus away from serving hedge fund clients, whom it has become overly reliant on, and towards big corporate clients, who offer a different sort of “flow” business based on interest swaps and other corporate needs.
FINSUM: We think it is smart for Goldman to diversify the focus on its fixed income unit. Especially since the $20bn plus revenue days don’t look like they are coming back.
Goldman Sachs just reported its first quarterly loss since 2011. The good news is that the loss does not mean the sky is falling in on investment banking or the markets. The loss was because of a huge $4.4 bn tax charge the company took in advance of the new tax regime for this year. Aside form the tax charge, Goldman’s business looked solid, with higher overall revenue and pre-tax margins in 2017. The one sore spot was bond trading, which produced only $1 bn of revenue.
FINSUM: The fall in bond trading revenue at GS has been prolific. In 2009 the firm created $23 bn of revenue in FICC trading. In 2017 revenues were just $5.3bn.
Banks are soon to be reporting their fourth quarter earnings, and Barron’s has put out an article advising investors on which stocks to buy ahead of the release. JPMorgan will report first and its numbers will have big implications for the sector. The piece cites analysts and says that Wells Fargo, Zion’s Bank, and Suntrust Bank look likely to do well, while investors should be underweight Goldman Sachs, CIT Group, and US Bancorp.
FINSUM: The tax package is going to be an interesting part of bank earnings both this earnings season and next, as some banks may do unusual tax maneuvers.