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Big Banks Pity Their Near-Record Profits - Is This Bullish for the Financial Sector?
By, Simon Maierhofer
Thursday October 04, 2012
It's tough being a banker today. The Federal Reserve wants to buy their bonds for top dollars, profits are near all-time highs, and yet bankers just aren't happy. Here's a closer look at the numbers and technicals.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the richest of them all,” the six big banks ask. The mirror replies: “You are the richest of them all, almost as rich as you were in 2006.” Disappointed about not being the richest ever, the banks walk away to drown their sorrow in a pity party.

The six largest banks reported a combined annual (June 2011 – June 2012) profit of $63 billion. How does this compare to the banks’ all-time record earnings? In 2005 banks earned $68 billion, in 2006 they earned $83 billion.

Banks are depressed because the new regulatory regime crimps their style and proven methods to make money. It requires banks to maintain bigger capital cushions. This limits their appetite for insane leverage and makes it harder to earn an “adequate” return on equity.

Boy, and those low interest rates really make it hard to make money too, they say. Never mind that the Fed pushed down interest rates just to keep the banks alive.

Some of the $63 billion profits (exactly how much nobody knows) aren’t real profits. They are accounting gains, profits engineered by clever accountants. That would explain why the six largest banks announced at least 40,000 job cuts from June 2011 – June 2012.

Perhaps this will give the banks – which are JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley - reason to cheer. According to Bloomberg estimates they are expected to earn in excess of $75 billion in 2013.

Will Financials Rally Further?

The August 5, Profit Radar Report took a closer look at financials - the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF) in particular - and featured the following research:

“Financials are currently under loved (who can blame investors). Of the $900 million invested in Rydex sector funds, only $18 million (2%) are allocated to financials.

With such negative sentiment, a technical breakout (close above 14.90) could cause a quick spike in prices. Next trend line resistance, and possible target, if 14.90 is overcome, is 15.63.”

As the chart below shows, this technical break out above resistance (dotted red lines) occurred on August 6th. The initial target at 15.63 (outlined by the solid red line) was met and exceeded quickly.

This red line, previously resistance, has now become support. There was no price/RSI divergence at the September 14 high, which suggests at least another run to new highs … another reason to make the bankers happy.

The analysis for the SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) looks nearly identical.

The only way investors can share in the bankers’ (undeserved) joy is to profit from opportunities like this. The mission of the Profit Radar Report is to identify high probability and low-risk buy/sell signals for the S&P 500 and many other asset classes.

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