Here's Why the Big Banks Are Dozing in the Heat Today

As the market draws to a close this fairly uneventful Thursday, shares of the nation's giant banks are taking advantage of the lull to catch a few z's. Following broadly along with the Dow, they're either flat or slightly higher/lower on the day.

This despite encouraging news -- for borrowers, anyway -- from Freddie Mac that mortgage rates are continuing to drop. According to Mr. Mac's weekly update, the average for the 30-year fixed rate is now 4.31%, or 20 basis points lower than where it stood two weeks ago. 

Banking stocks' non-reaction to the data indicates that few are expecting any major impact, positive or negative, to the operations of big lenders. The stock of America's Emperor of Mortgages, Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) , moved only slightly downwards on the news.

Shares of Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) , which has made noises about challenging Wells Fargo in the housing arena, added a few cents over the course the day. Like most of its big banking brethren, there isn't much on the latest-and-greatest front to juice B of A's stock, save for the appointment of two new directors to its board. The bank announced yesterday that Clayton Rose and Pierre de Weck are now members of that body, bringing the total number of directors to 15. Both men are solid financial industry veterans (and in Rose's case, a Harvard Business School professor),so perhaps the uptick in the stock is the market's signal that it approves the hires.

Going the opposite direction in terms of board appointments is JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) . Last week, the company shed a pair of directors, David Cote and Ellen Futter, saying in a fairly unconcerned tone that it "intends to appoint new directors to the Board later this year." The market shrugged; JPMorgan Chase's share price today is roughly where it stood the day that news was released.

What might be providing at least a little bit of support to big banking stocks today is dividends. Yesterday, Bank of America declared its latest common stock payout. OK, at $0.01 a share that's probably not going to make anyone a millionaire, but at least the company is continuing to dispense something. Dividend maintenance is the "in" thing to do for banking majors these days; last week, Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) also reupped its princely $0.01 per common share payout, while two days ago, Wells Fargo declared $0.30, matching the previous distribution.

With the weekend fast approaching, it doesn't look like there will be much in the way of stock-shaking news for the big financials. They might just hit the hay early on Friday; it's the dozy days of summer, after all, and there's more sleeping in to do.


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