Lots of banking players went limping from the field in the fourth quarter, and analysts say some of these difficulties are unlikely to go away in 1995.
Snared by sharply rising rates, several major institutions were forced to overhaul balance sheets vulnerably positioned so that deposits and other borrowings rolled over faster than loans and securities investments.
Meanwhile, slumps in loan yields and trading and fee revenues prompted a renewed emphasis on efficiency, and special charges for overhead cuts. Funds management and trading mishaps also hurt otherwise respectable showings.
To be sure, much of the tumult can be taken in the context of yearend housecleaning. Problems, none dire, were addressed; groundwork was laid for 1995. And the majority of major bank holding companies will turn in solid performances.
But analysts remain uneasy about underlying trends that sparked the outbreak of special charges in the fourth quarter. Prospects of further rate-induced stress, ebbing risk-adjusted loan yields, and stagnant fee revenues make for a cautious outlook.
"Nineteen ninety-five will be a challenging year," said Smith Barney analyst Henry C. Dickson. "While the general health of the banking industry cannot be called into question, some institutions will prove unable to grow revenues. And at some point, loan-loss provisions will start rising."
Analysts' consensus forecasts, as compiled by First Call Corp., are reflective of the disruptions and trends surfacing in the fourth quarter. Of the nation's top 25 bank holding companies, 11 are expected to report declines in earnings per share compared with the third quarter. An additional six banks are expected to post back-to-back quarterly earnings per share growth of less than 2%.
Analysts cite rate shocks, trading setbacks, and consolidation charges as key factors in their negative prognostications.
Banc One Corp. will take a $400 million pretax charge in the fourth quarter, $250 million for a balance sheet overhaul and the remainder for consolidation expenses. Analysts expect a 58.7% year-to-year drop in quarterly earnings per share.
Mellon Bank Corp. will take a $200 million pretax charge on a securities mishap at subsidiary Boston Co. and is expected to post a 74% earnings per share decline.
PNC Bank Corp. is expected to report a 27.8% earnings per share decline. It will book roughly $170 million in pretax charges, more than two-thirds on portfolio corrections and the remainder for consolidation outlays.
Keycorp announced it will take up to $35 million of pre-tax charges for portfolio repositioning in the fourth quarter, saying the total will rise to $100 million by the end of the first quarter. Keycorp's earnings per share are expected to fall 9.8% from the third quarter but results will be up strongly from a year ago, when a charge was booked on Keycorp's merger with Society Corp.
First Union Corp. will pay a $41.4 million redemption premium to retire a class of preferred stock. Analysts expect earnings per share to fall 5.2% from the third quarter, although results still are expected to rise strongly from a year ago.
Trading declines will figure prominently in fourth quarter results at certain money-center institutions. Chemical Banking Corp. said a $70 million pretax loss on unauthorized Mexican peso trades would lower overall trading revenues, and analysts are forecasting a 17% drop in earnings per share from a year ago.
Observers foresee a 55.5% year-to-year drop in quarterly earnings per share at Bankers Trust New York Corp. and a 54.7% decline at J.P. Morgan & Co. Trading revenue slumps are blamed in both cases.
Citicorp's earnings per share will be off 12.6% from the third quarter but up a healthy 37.7% from a year ago, analysts say. Conversely, analysts believe, First Chicago Corp.'s earnings per share will be off 13.6% from extraordinary results of a year ago but up 1.3% from the third quarter.
One exception among money-center institutions is Bank of New York Co., which analysts expect to improve earnings per share on the strength of its burgeoning credit card operations.
Not all balance sheet revisions will be visible on the bottom line.
Oppenheimer & Co. expects that NationsBank Corp., for example, will offset $30 million of securities losses with one-time tax gains from its Texas subsidiary. And it expects Norwest Corp. to offset "modest" losses on securities sales with gains from sales of mortgage servicing rights.
Analysts seem particularly encouraged by progress at West Coast institutions. Though the California economy is not yet firing on all cylinders, observers expect major institutions to exhibit modest revenue growth.
Linked quarter and year-to-year increases in earnings per share are expected at BankAmerica Corp., First Interstate Bancorp, and Wells Fargo & Co. Share repurchases, however, will figure strongly in earning per share comparisons at Wells and First Interstate, analysts say.
Although margin compression and soft fee revenue growth will matter in most earnings reports, analysts are expecting healthy growth at institutions dotted across the country.
In the Midwest, continued healthy growth is expected at First Bank System, Norwest, and National City Corp. And in the Northeast, Fleet Financial Group is expected to show sharply improved results.
Looking to 1995, analysts downplay the possibility of further widespread special charges, but they also note that many institutions merely lessened exposure to rising rates instead of eliminating it.
And it is not clear whether or when investors will calm down. A paucity of timely and comparable information on portfolio postures, the prospect of further rate hikes, and uncertainties about revenue growth have contributed to a broad - and many say exaggerated - retreat in bank stocks.
"There is a sense of queasiness out there," said Dean Witter analyst Anthony Davis. "Solidly positioned institutions, and there are many, have not been given the benefit of the doubt by investors."