Oppenheimer Gets More Positive on 4 Top Banks for 2015

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The brokerage firm Oppenheimer has released a very positive report for four of America’s largest banks. The firm may have said “here we go again” for its banking outlook in 2015, but it took the price targets higher for the most favorable banks.

Oppenheimer expects this quarter’s earnings results will be stable and steady, with ongoing net interest margin pressure offsetting modest loan growth, modest fee income growth offsetting weakness in mortgages. Trading revenues are expected to be down slightly from the previous year, as well as below Oppenheimer’s consensus expectations. However, the firm continues to believe that bank stocks are modestly undervalued and should outperform modestly in the coming 12 to 24 months.

The most positive development in Oppenheimer’s opinion is that after five years of flat to lower volumes, credit card loans are finally growing, showing 4% year-over-year in December, compared to 1.5% in the previous year. Commercial real estate seems to have stabilized at a solid mid-to-upper single-digit run rate, and home equity loans seem to finally be winding down their long shrink, after four virtually flat months.

Trading revenues are once again likely to be down on the order of 10% year-over-year, making this the 14th down quarter out of the past 20. It is also notable in that it will likely bring 2014 in 8% to 10% below 2011, which at the time we thought was freakishly weak.

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Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) had its estimates only modestly reduced for both the fourth quarter of 2014 and the full year 2015. The biggest driver of earnings per share reduction comes from the assumption that trading revenues will be down. Additionally loan growth is expected to be slowed through 2015, as well as investment banking and mortgage banking revenues. In turn, earnings per share are expected to decline to $1.54 from $1.57 in 2015. However, Bank of America estimates that earnings per share for 2016 will be $1.80, which as a result moves the price target higher to $21 from $19.

Shares of Bank of America were down 2% at $17.04 Tuesday. The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $18.30 and a 52-week trading range of $14.37 to $18.21. The company has a market cap near $179 billion.

Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) is going through $3.5 billion in legal and repositioning, which the company said will definitely impact the fourth quarter. The low fourth-quarter earnings per share were the result of lower trading revenues, which the company had previously indicated in mid-December. The 2015 estimate for earnings per share was only modestly reduced to $5.51 from $5.56, due to flow-through from loan growth and the reduction in trading revenues. Looking ahead to 2016, Oppenheimer estimates the full-year earnings per share to be $6.02, and at the same time raises its price target to $70 from $67.

Shares of Citigroup were down 2% at $51.53. The consensus analyst price target is $60.12, and the 52-week trading range is $45.18 to $56.95. Citigroup has a market cap of $156 billion.

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JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) suffered a reduction in its fourth-quarter earnings per share, which was almost entirely related to trading revenues. Like Citigroup, J.P. Morgan relayed this message to shareholders in a mid-December conference. As a result, Oppenheimer reduced trading revenue estimates to $1.5 billion from $2.1 billion. Also weak M&A underwriting is expected to reduce investment banking fees slightly. For the full year 2015, the earnings per share estimate was adjusted down to $5.93 from $6.01. Oppenheimer rolled out its 2016 earnings per share estimate of $6.43 and raised its price target to $75 from $72.

J.P. Morgan shares were down Tuesday over 1% at $59.68. The consensus price target is $67.86. The 52-week trading range is $52.97 to $63.49. The market cap is about $223 billion.

Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) had only very minor and generally offsetting changes made to its model by Oppenheimer. The mortgage revenue assumption was tweaked down slightly but was offset by a slightly lower net charge-off assumption. Oppenheimer expects that this will be the second quarter of a new string of consecutive quarterly earnings gains, which may continue through a few years. Based on Wells Fargo’s 2016 earnings per share estimate, the firm raised the price target to $60 from $59.

Shares of Wells Fargo retreated 1% to $52.64 Tuesday. The consensus price target is $54.74, and the 52-week trading range is $44.17 to $55.95. The bank has a market cap of $273 billion.

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Oppenheimer continues to recommend other banks as well, such as: CIT Group Inc. (NYSE: CIT), Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF), Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) and SunTrust Banks Inc. (NYSE: STI).