1 Reason for Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. to be Afraid. Very Afraid.

The recent stress test results are in from the Federal Reserve, and while they passed, Bank of America, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase actually look worse this year versus last year.

Mar 25, 2014 at 11:31AM

The latest results from the Federal Reserve and its stress testing has been announced -- but it turns out Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and Citigroup (NYSE:C) all have reason to be afraid.

The first glance
The headlines surrounding the recently released results were quite positive. In the story from The Wall Street Journal entitled, Fed 'Stress Test' Results: 29 of 30 Big Banks Could Weather Big Shock, had an introduction which noted, "Results Could Clear Way For Dividends, Share Buybacks."

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Things may not be looking up for Bank of America.

The first paragraph said simply, "The Federal Reserve's annual test of big banks' financial health showed the largest U.S. firms are strong enough to withstand a severe economic downturn, a sign that many will get the green light soon to reward investors by raising dividends and buying back shares."

Only one bank, Zions Bancorp (NASDAQ:ZION) failed to be adequately prepared for the stressed scenario, with a common capital ratio of 3.5% following the severely adverse scenario, which involved a 50% dip in stock prices, a skyrocketing unemployment rate, and home prices falling by 20%. This level of 3.5% at Zions was well below the 5% required by the Federal Reserve. Yet as shown in the chart below, in aggregate, the banks improved significantly:

 

And when you consider the 30 banks required to undertake the stress test this year had estimated total losses of $366 billion through the nine quarters of stress versus the 18 banks witnessing $462 billion last year, it's no wonder many believed the banks have finally recovered.

The reason for fear
The problem is one thing notably absent from headlines is the reality Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) each had results which were worse this year versus last year.

Under the almost identical severe stress scenarios, we can see Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase actually lost ground in 2013, whereas Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) saw its results improve significantly:

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Source: Federal Reserve.

And while at first glance Citigroup appears to have done better than Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, it turns out the Federal Reserve projected its net losses after nine quarters under the severely stressed scenario to balloon from $28.6 billion, following the 2012 test, to a staggering $45.7 billion in 2013:

 

The dividend fear
As a result of the remarkable improvement in the bottom line results from both Bank of America and Citigroup in 2013 -- Citigroup rose from $7.5 billion in 2012 to $13.9 billion in 2013 and Bank of America was up from $4.2 billion to $11.4 billion -- many have suggested the dividends will surely jump in 2014 for each of the banks with the one penny per quarter payout.

Yet when you consider each of those banks apparently are seemingly in worse shape under a stressed scenario now versus where they were last year, one has to wonder if the dividend boost is further away than one anyone would prefer.

Dividends you can trust
Banks like Bank of America and Citigroup used to deliver delightful dividends, but we may never see those days return. This is important because one of the dirty secrets that few finance professionals will openly admit is the fact that dividend stocks as a group handily outperform their non-dividend paying brethren. But knowing this is only half the battle. The other half is identifying which dividend stocks in particular are the best. With this in mind, our top analysts put together a free list of nine high-yielding stocks that should be in every income investor's portfolio. To learn the identity of these stocks instantly and for free, all you have to do is click here now.

Patrick Morris owns shares of Bank of America. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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