Earnings Season Should Boost Hot Financial Stocks, RBC's Top Bank Analyst Predicts

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One of the year's hottest trades may get a boost from earnings season.

RBC Capital Markets' Gerard Cassidy expects financials to exceed Wall Street expectations when they start reporting this week.

"The big beats are likely to come from the loan loss reserve releasing numbers," the firm's head of U.S. bank equity strategy told CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Friday. "Last year because of the pandemic, the banking industry set aside billions of dollars in anticipated credit losses, and the reserves for these losses weren't used."

Financials were the third worst performing S&P 500 group in 2020, behind energy and real estate. So far this year, Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund, which tracks the group, is up more than 19%.

According to Cassidy, that's about to change. He believes the banking sector will be among the best performers this year due to the unprecedented economic recovery.

"That was not factored in last year when the banks set aside this money to cover these losses," he said. "So, we expect in the first quarter that's going to be the big driver of the earnings beat, partially offset though with slower growth in the net interest income and maybe some net interest margin pressure as well."

JPMorgan Chase ushers in earnings season on Wednesday — along with Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo.

Cassidy anticipates Bank of America, which reports quarterly results on Thursday, will be the biggest winner. It's up 32% so far this year.

He lists strong management, its wide exposure to the U.S. recovery and diverse revenue stream as the chief bullish factors.

"Ninety percent of their business, comes from the United States," said Cassidy. "With the Federal Reserve forecasting the growth of this country's economy coming in at 6%, they will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of that growth."

Cassidy names Credit Suisse as the bank facing the most challenges right now. He cites its massive losses in connection with the Archegos Capital hedge fund implosion.

"There has been a number of management changes over the years in that organization," Cassidy said. "Because of that possibly the controls and procedures weren't as solid as they've been at some of the domestic U.S. firms."

Shares of Credit Suisse are off more than 26% since March 1.

Disclosure: RBC Capital Markets has investment banking relationships and/or non-investment banking relationships with JPM, BAC MS, GS, and CS.


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