News round up: Citi, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, China, Pendragon, Home repossessions and Mortgage costs.
Shares in large US banks have fallen sharply since the sector peaked in late March, with the likes of Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) and Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) entering "bear market" territory after their stock prices have dropped some 20 per cent. Having rallied substantially in the first few months of the year and helping to propel the S&P 500 to its best start since 1997, the pullback in financials could be hastened by looming Moody’s downgrades and potentially signifies a turbulent summer for the broader market.
Investors expected a correction of 10 per cent when financials started retreating in late March, however the pullback has extended beyond a mere "correction" as investors worry that banks face the threat of possible contagion from the renewed eurozone crisis. A significant component of the anxiety among investors is possible rating downgrades that could raise the cost of trading and funding for banks at a time when there are unresolved questions about how regulation will affect the future profitability of the US banks’ business model.
Since late March the S&P financials sector consisting of 81 companies has fallen 6.4 per cent from its high for the year. Based on Thursday’s official close, shares in Morgan Stanley are down 26.5 per cent, while BofA has dropped 22.5 per cent and Citi has fallen 19.5 per cent in the past six weeks, writes the Financial Times.
JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon has shocked Wall Street by disclosing the bank racked up 2bn dollars (1.2bn pounds) of trading losses in the past six weeks and warned they could get worse. "It puts egg on our face and we deserve any criticism we get," Mr Dimon told analysts in a hastily arranged call after stock markets closed in New York on Thursday night.
He admitted the losses were linked to a Wall Street Journal report last month about a trader, nicknamed the 'London Whale', who, the report said, had amassed an outsized position which hedge funds were betting against, The Telegraph reports.
The Eurozone has lost a crucial lifeline as China's biggest sovereign wealth fund said it no longer wanted to buy European government debt. Amid resurgent political and financial crisis in Spain and Greece, Gao Ziqing, head of the China Investment Corporation (CIC), said the $440bn (£273bn) fund was "looking at opportunities in Europe" but added: "We don't want to buy any government bonds."
Eurozone leaders have tried to attract investors from Asia to help mop up excess sovereign debt. Both China and Japan have been supportive in the past, in part because Europe is one of their biggest export markets. The retreat by China came amid political deadlock in Greece, the bank crisis in Spain and signs of a deepening economic recession, according to The Telegraph.
Militant shareholders staged their biggest pay rebellion of the “shareholder” spring yesterday as investors in Britain’s largest car dealer comprehensively rejected controversial bonus deals. Investors speaking for more than 67% of Pendragon’s voting shares opposed the group’s remuneration report. A contrite chairman Mike Davies, who is also chairman of Royal Mint, promised to amend the offending changes to its executive pay schemes.
The issue that most irked investors was the near-£1 million paid to Trevor Finn, the chief executive, including a £232,000 bonus for overseeing last year’s rescue rights issue and refinancing. Despite the revolt, The Times understands that Mr Finn has no intention of repaying the bonus.
The number of home repossessions is "stable", breaking a recent trend of year-on-year increases, lenders said yesterday. There were 9,600 repossessions in the first three months of the year, the same number as in the same period in 2011, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders. The new figure is a 10 per cent increase on the fourth quarter of 2011 but the CML said that this represents a normal seasonal pattern.
Its previous prediction that repossessions would rise to 45,000 this year may be revised down later this summer when it publishes its housing market forecasts, it said. However, it cautioned that pressures on household finances, cuts to welfare benefits and an "upward drift" in mortgage rates all have the potential to disrupt the current picture, The Times says.
Homeowners were last month hit with the biggest rise in mortgage costs in almost three years despite interest rates remaining at a record low, according to Bank of England figures. Borrowers taking out two-year fixed rate deals, one of the most popular on the market, saw their average offer increase from 3.44% in March to 3.65% in April.
It was the sharpest monthly rise since June 2009, and the seventh consecutive increase. As recently as September, a two-year fixed rate cost just 2.92%. According to Defaqto, a financial research company, two-year fixed mortgages now account for 30% of all current offers compared with 20% in 2007. With annual gross mortgage lending running at around £150bn, the rising costs may be affecting more than £30bn of lending, The Telegraph reports.
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