A broad stock market rally Tuesday helped buoy financial stocks even as analysts who cover banking companies rushed to cut their earnings estimates as the end of the first quarter nears.
The American Banker index of 225 banks rose 4.91%, and its index of top 50 banks increased 3.56%, as some positive economic data released this week quelled the specter of recession for some investors. In the broader market, the Standard & Poors 500 index climbed 2.56% and the Nasdaq 2.81%. Some equity analysts are still playing catch-up, though, on their earnings projections for the banking sector, in light of the markets recent losses.
George A. Bicher, an equity analyst at Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown, cut his estimates for six financial companies Tuesday, including State Street Corp., Mellon Financial Corp., Goldman Sachs Group, and FleetBoston Financial Corp.
In his research note, he raised concerns about the effect of the markets woes on the asset management and related businesses of both Pittsburghs Mellon and Bostons State Street. The two companies are big players in those business lines. He reduced his full-year earnings expectation for Mellon by 3 cents, to $2.20, and for State Street by 12 cents, to $4.
However Mr. Bichers revised outlooks were not enough to rattle the shares of either company. State Street was among the biggest gainers Tuesday. Its stock rose 3.82%, to close at $92.95, and traded at more than twice its average daily volume. Mellons shares climbed 2.38%, to $39.98. Indeed, none of the banking companies that had their earnings expectations cut by analysts Tuesday suffered significantly in the market.
Mr. Bicher also slashed his full-year estimate for Goldman Sachs this year by 62 cents, to $6, and for next year by $1, to $7. The investment banking company has already reported a 13% drop in its fiscal first-quarter profits from the year earlier, to $768 million.
It might be near time to set clocks forward, he wrote in his report. However, for capital markets revenues, it is time to set the clock back. Henry C. Dickson of Lehman Brothers cited similar concerns over plunging revenues from capital markets when he cut his estimates for J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.s earnings. He trimmed his targets by 15 cents for the first quarter, to 60 cents, and by 10 cents for the year, to $3.50.
James F. Mitchell of Putnam Lovell Securities, who had cut his full-year target for the company by 15 cents Monday, to $3.50, said investors should not underestimate the potential of cash gains and lower expenses for compensation, and that he expects no further earnings reduction. Compensations go down in slower markets.
Morgan Chase confirmed Tuesday it will continue to lay off people in its investment banking division, though a spokesman said the cuts are because of job overlaps resulting from Chase Manhattan Corp.s purchase of J.P. Morgan & Co. Mr. Bicher also became the latest analyst to lower his outlook for Bank of America Corp. He cut his first-quarter earnings target by 6 cents, to $1.19, and his full-year estimate by 20 cents, to $5.
He also cut his full-year target for Fleet by 10 cents, to $3.50. This year the company will generate lower fees from investment banking and brokerage activities because of market volatility, he wrote in his research note.
On Monday, Fleet confirmed that it is cutting 11% of the jobs in its Robertson Stephens investment banking unit. In his research note, Mr. Mitchell echoed Mr. Bichers view of Fleet, but said that 80% of the companys revenues come from non-market-sensitive areas. Cost savings generated from Fleets acquisition this month of Summit Bancorp of Princeton, N.J., should give earnings a boost, he wrote.
Nevertheless, Mr. Mitchell slashed his full-year profit target for Fleet by 25 cents, to $3.50.
Should the economy rebound, market-sensitive revenues could actually rise and lift the earnings outlooks for investment banking firms and processors this year, he said.