You think the worst is behind banks? Financial institutions may not say so outwardly, but their numbers would beg to differ.
Let's face it, the U.S. is an economy built on credit, whether it be for consumers or for businesses. Banks know this. That's how they make their money. Or at least that's how they should be making their money.
And even though many banks are back to posting profits, it's not necessarily in ways that should make you feel good about the economic outlook. J.P. Morgan Chase has been killing it in investment banking and slogging through on the retail and consumer side. Wells Fargo beat earnings estimates, but nearly a third of its pretax quarterly profits came from its hedges on mortgage-servicing rights. Chase also had more than $400 million in net gains on its MSRs through hedges. Not exactly a sustainable revenue source.
But back to loans.
Investment bank KBW said in a report Thursday that, through the third quarter, "loan growth is off to a particularly weak start," increasing a mere 1 percent annually and declining 4 percent sequentially at 39 banks it tracks.
It also found that deposit growth rates are stronger at 8 percent annually and 2 percent sequentially.
Add in that the federal funds rate is practically zero, banks have access to capital at unbelievably low rates, which should work well with the traditional formula of borrowing low and loaning at higher rates.
Really, the only thing to infer from the fact that banks are borrowing or attracting lots of cheap capital and not incrementally lending it is that more losses are on the way, whether from commercial real estate, credit cards or otherwise.
Feels like the Fed is running out of strings to push on.