Stuck With You

by Ralph Cole, CFA Executive Vice President of Research

Stuck With You

We all know too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing: that has been the case with interest rates in recent years. Coming out of the financial crisis, banks needed lower interest rates so they could repair their battered balance sheets. Short-term rates came down even faster than long-term rates and allowed banks to pay virtually nothing on deposits and make loans at a substantial profit. As long-term rates have come down, banks have had to lower what they charge for loans, thus reducing their profit margins (otherwise known as net interest margins). For the last couple of years, banks have been hoping for higher rates. Thus far this quarter they have received their wish and we can see that regional bank stock prices have responded well.


Source: FactSet

The correlation between U.S. 10-year Treasury yields and the regional bank index has been remarkable. The theory is that as long-term rates rise banks will be able to charge more for the loans than they make. They will also get higher returns on bond investments that they offer. These improved profit margins will help bank earnings. Much like the relationship between oil and gasoline prices at the pump, banks will be slow to raise interest on deposits and much quicker to increase what they charge on loans. We expect rates to continue to move higher throughout the rest of the year.

Every Little Thing Is Going to be Alright

In a year when the Fed is expected to raise interest rates every piece of economic data is parsed and picked apart. This week it was retail sales and consumer comfort. Retail sales were strong, whereas consumer comfort came in weaker than expected … So let’s just step back for a moment.

Employment gains have resumed their 200,000+ trajectory from 2014. Wage growth is finally starting to flow through the economy. Consumers and corporations continue to benefit from generationally low interest rates. We believe the consumer and the economy are on solid footing and that bodes well for whenever the Fed starts raising rates - be it June, September or December. We caution all not to worry too much about the daily economic numbers or the daily movements in the stock market.

 Takeaways for the week:

  • Banks are a beneficiary of higher long-term interest rates
  • "Main Street" is finally feeling the positive effects of this economic expansion