By: Stephen Clinton, President, Capital Market Securities, Inc.
The current expansion began in June 2009 and has now continued for 88 months, making it the fourth longest period of growth since the data has been recorded. The third quarter growth in the U.S. economy was 2.9%. A tight job market, increasing wages, and low oil prices are aiding the economic growth. Additionally, stronger export growth added to the GNP. Corporate profits are expected to grow and businesses are showing interest in business expansion after sitting on the sidelines for some time.
The following summarize certain issues we think are worth watching:
- Retail sales in September were up 2.7% from the prior year. Consumer spending, the primary driver for the U.S. economy, accounts for two-thirds of GDP.
- The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits was reported at a four-decade low in early October. Initial jobless claims have now remained below 300,000 for seven years, the longest streak since 1970. Job growth has been spurred by a hiring streak that surpassed its previous record in March and is now at 70 straight months. Unemployment is now at 5%.
- Median household incomes have risen, increasing 5% in the last year. This has led to the consumer confidence reading hitting its highest point in nine years.
- The Fed continues to remain cautious. Despite fueling expectations for rising interest rates, the Fed has boosted rates only once since the last recession.
- Home-price growth accelerated in August, as a lack of inventory and low interest rates helped push prices to near record levels. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices covering the entire nation rose 5.3% in the 12 months ending in August.
- Inflation has remained below the Fed’s 2% annual target for more than four years, but has shown signs of firming recently. Now expectations are building that inflation may move above the Fed’s target.
- Mr. Trump’s November election will usher in a new President who will have party majorities in both the House and Senate. This should help the new Administration enact programs and policies more readily.
Short-term interest rates remain historically low with the 3-month T-Bill ending September at 0.26%. The 10-year T-Note ended September at 1.56%, down 71 basis points from year-end 2015. This has led to a significant reduction in the slope of the yield curve.
The stock market performance in 2016 has been positive. The Dow Jones Industrial Index closed September up 5.07% for the year. The Nasdaq Index closed up 6.08%. The Nasdaq Bank index ended September up 5.15%. Larger U.S. bank pricing struggled, ending the first three quarters of 2016 down 3.05%.
The dichotomy between big bank pricing and smaller bank pricing can be seen by comparing pricing multiples for each. Since 1995, banks in the S&P Bank Index averaged a price-to-earnings multiple of 14.1. Currently they average 12.0. Conversely, smaller banks had a historical average of 15.9 and are now trading at a multiple of 17.8.
Interesting Tid Bits
- New Competition. Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street giant, recently began offering consumer loans. An online consumer lending platform was rolled out offering personal loans up to $30,000.
- CFPB. Thanks to a lawsuit brought by nonbank mortgage lender PHH Mortgage, a three-judge panel recently ruled that the single director structure of the CFPB was unconstitutional and limited the CFPB’s ability to ignore statute of limitations governing administrative enforcement actions.
- The Big Get Bigger. It was recently reported that since Dodd-Frank was passed in 2010, large banks have grown by 30%. The six largest U.S. banks now hold assets of approximately $10 trillion. There are now at least 1,500 fewer banks with assets under $1 billion than prior to the financial crisis.
- Boom in Global Trade. The S&P 500 is up nearly nine-fold since October 1986. Among factors cited to explain this dramatic growth is the acceleration of global trade spurred by various trade agreements.
- Merger and Acquisition Activity. In the first nine months of the year, there were 185 bank and thrift announced merger transactions. This compares to 195 deals in the first three quarters of 2015. The median price to tangible book for transactions involving bank sellers was 129% which is down from the 141% median recorded in 2015.