Wall Street Journal

Let's start a bank: The prospect of lighter bank regulation and an improved economy has led to a relative surge in applications for new banks. While the eight applications received by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last year is a drop in the bucket compared to the high of 299 it received in 2005, it's the most in any year since the financial crisis. "We believe that hopefully the new administration will bring some relief to the regulations that have come down the last eight to nine years," said David Dotherow, founder of the proposed Winter Park National Bank in Florida.

Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan and other executives at the bank may not get 2016 bonuses.

Show me: Wells Fargo's board is considering eliminating 2016 bonuses for some senior executives, including CEO Timothy Sloan and CFO John Shrewsberry, the Journal is reporting. A final decision is expected in the coming weeks. "The cut to compensation isn't meant to reflect culpability on the part of the executives in connection with the sales-practices scandal," the paper said, rather to "to show accountability for the bank's overall performance."

Chill out: Critics of President Trump's executive order to start the process of rolling back financial regulations needn't worry that he's planning to go back to the bad old days, according to Greg Ip, the Journal's chief economics commentator. "In the 10 years since the financial crisis began, the regulatory pendulum has moved relentlessly in the direction of tougher restrictions on finance," Ip notes. "Mr. Trump's order reverses the direction of the pendulum but there is little sign his administration wants it back to where it was in 2007."

Still, he says, Trump's order does address "a serious flaw in the post-crisis regulatory crackdown," namely that it "largely ignored the costs of forgone lending, economic growth and consumer choice. Mr. Trump has signaled those costs must now be taken into account. Over time, that could generate a better balanced supply of credit to a wider range of companies and households without making the financial system much riskier."

Out of balance: There's a growing imbalance in the U.S. housing market: A "significant and growing shortage" of homes at the low end, where most of the buyers are, and a glut of properties at the high end. That suggests that "first-time home buyers and high-end sellers might have a difficult year ahead of them," the Journal reports. "The result is likely to be swiftly rising prices at the low end and challenges for first-time buyers, and sluggish price increases and lingering listings at the top end."

"The big, high-level takeaway is that most Americans are looking for a starter or trade-up home but there are a ton of premium homes on the market," Felipe Chacon, a housing analyst at Trulia, said.

Moot point?: A federal judge in Texas upheld the legality of the Labor Department's fiduciary rule on retirement savings accounts, rejecting claims by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that Labor exceeded its authority. However, the decision may be a moot point, in the light of President Trump's executive order last week directing Labor to restudy the rule.

Financial Times

Swapping out: Deutsche Bank is closing down its U.S. swaps clearing business, joining several other banks, including Nomura, State Street, BNY Mellon and RBS, that have already left the business. The reason for the move is to "cut costs amid continued questions over its business model," the FT says. The German bank, however, will continue to clear futures globally.

Washington Post

Teller-less banks: Banks introduced ATMs years ago to eliminate the need for so many tellers. Now at least one bank is going a step further: Bank branches with no humans, following the trend started by self-checkout supermarkets and self-serve gas pumps. Bank of America recently opened three automated centers, as they are called – two in Denver and one in Minneapolis – that have ATMs and video-conferencing, but no employees.

BofA spokeswoman Anne Pace told the Post that customers "can have a one-on-one conversation to get a mortgage, plan for retirement, open a small business or get a car loan." She described the automated centers as "just a test. We haven't rolled these out extensively. We are going to see how these go, see what we learn and make a decision from there."

Quotable ...

"This is the beginning of the end of the American bank branch. Bank branches are dead. They were killed by the iPhone. It's like the horseshoe when the automobile came along." – Peter Fitzgerald, a former U.S. senator from Illinois and founder of Chain Bridge Bank in McLean, Va.

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