After a robust 1994, the industry's first-quarter earnings reports will reflect poor performances at money-centers and rising deposit rates at regional banks, analysts predict.
While some banks continued to thrive in economically attractive areas of the country, first-quarter results are expected to show that trading losses at the New York banks and shrinking net interest margins at some regionals depressed earnings, as they did in the fourth quarter.
"Funding costs are rising as banks are beginning to pay depositors higher rates," said David Berry, director of research at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. "And continued competitive loan pricing will shrink net interest margins."
Integra Financial Corp., First of America Corp., PNC Bank Corp., and Huntington Bancshares all will show weak returns in the first quarter compared to the year earlier period, according to consensus estimates provided by First Call Corp., an affiliate of American Banker.
PNC earnings are expected to be down more than 40% as the full effect of its balance sheet restructuring will be felt in this quarter, analysts said.
The big losers for the quarter, however, are money-center banks with large trading operations. Chase Manhattan Corp., which announced last month it would report weak trading results, will be off 38% from last year's first quarter, according to the consensus estimate.
Bankers Trust New York Corp. has already announced a first-quarter loss of $125 million, or $1.50 a share, because of trading and derivatives losses.
Analysts showed sharp disagreement over Bankers Trust's prospects for the first quarter. The standard deviation of their earnings estimates equaled 49.3% of the mean forecast, a far higher percentage than for any other bank.
First Chicago Corp. is expected be down 23.5% from the first quarter of 1994, when the bank enjoyed unusually strong venture capital returns, noted Raphael Soifer, an analyst with Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.
J.P. Morgan & Co. will be off 39.1%, First Call's consensus said.
Citicorp will come in up 26.8%, according to consensus estimates, but only because last year the bank had terrible trading results, Mr. Soifer said.
"Citicorp has not said anything to indicate trading results will be on par with last year's first quarter," he said.
And Bank of New York Co., buoyed by its strong credit card portfolio, will come in up 22%, First Call's consensus said.
Banks located in the economically attractive Midwest, southeast and Rocky Mountain regions will perform well, however, Mr. Soifer added.
SouthTrust Corp., SunTrust Banks Inc., National City Corp., NBD Corp., and Norwest Corp. will turn in positive first-quarter results, according to First Call.
The California banks should also report positive results, as the state's economy continues to improve. As a result, Wells Fargo & Co. does not plan to report a loan loss provision, which is deducted from earnings, and BankAmerica's provision should be low, Mr. Soifer said.
Other banks will report higher earnings as their cost-cutting plans begin to pay off, including First Interstate Bancorp, Fleet Financial Corp., Chemical Banking Corp., and UJB Financial Corp., which will be up 42%, the largest gain of any top 50 bank.
In market news, Bank of Boston Corp. rose $1.50 to $32.25 after Smith Barney Inc. upgraded the company to "buy" from "outperform."
Also, Chase Manhattan Corp. rose 87.5 cents to $42.50 after Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst Judah Kraushaar upgraded the bank to "medium term above average" from "neutral." Wednesday, activist investor Michael Price took a 6.1% stake in the money-center.