More Than One "T" Word Is Affecting Bank Stocks Today

The market was a tough place today for any company not named Twitter. Even some fairly stable big-name financial stocks were guilty by disassociation with the all-star IPO of the moment, with most down in late-afternoon trading.

Much of that has to do with the other "T" word on the market's lips: taper. Today's excellent macroeconomic news regarding quarterly real gross domestic product (which advanced 2.8% in Q3 against expectations of around 2%), although highly encouraging, has reignited fears of the big T. Investors are concerned that happy news such as this will encourage the Fed to start putting the brakes on quantitative easing. In their eyes, this portends ill for the many financials profiting indirectly from such activity.

Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) is the most obvious candidate here, as it's the nation's top housing lender by a long stretch. Compounding the bearish gloom is the bank's revelation that will dish out $335 million to Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Finance Agency to settle claims that it provided false information about its mortgage bonds. This is actually the second settlement the company has reached with Fred; back in August, Wells Fargo announced an $869 million settlement with it over repurchase liabilities.

The bank is big, successful, and well capitalized. It was also well prepared for this, setting aside sufficient funds to cover the expenditure. But the last thing any investor in the financials sector wants to hear just now is news of yet another settlement or lawsuit in the sector. So Wells Fargo stock is trailing not only the Dow today but also the shares of its peer banking majors.

The others are doing better, and possibly that's a result of what we can call the Twitter Effect. Units of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) were among the book runners bringing the company to market, and both firms will profit handsomely. Any successful IPO begets more fresh offerings, with mid-stage companies and their underwriters hoping to take advantage of the bullish sentiment in its wake. JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are well poised to take advantage of this, as they're already two of the top names in new stock issuance.

The duo aren't the only big financials building relationships with new stock titles. This morning, Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) announced that it is to be the depositary bank for the American depositary receipts of Chinese classified listings website operator 58.com. Citi was one of the underwriters of its IPO, which took place last week. Although hardly the size of Twitter, the 11 million share issue was a winner, with the stock pricing above its expected range and advancing more than 45% on its first day of trading.

So perhaps that's the trick these days for the big financials. Take the punches that the law and a tapering Fed throw at them and find a way to sneak in a few profitable blows doing what they do best. In the glow of Twitter, it seems that there are points to be scored in that game. 


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