It's impossible to predict the future, but that doesn't mean we can't try. In terms of bank stocks, 2016 should be an interesting year for all, with a changing monetary policy, evolving regulations, and an eight-year bull market chugging along.
For three very different reasons, I think that these three banks have a great chance of becoming the best bank stocks for 2016.
As close to a slam dunk as there is
First Republic Bank (NYSE:FRC) is a $55 billion private bank with offices in seven select markets in the United States. The bank targets high-net-worth individuals with jumbo mortgage loans to finance high-end home purchases. From there, the bank cross-sells deposit products, business loans, and other personal loans to these financially sound customers. This business model provides the bank with excellent credit quality, strong earnings, and consistent growth.
The numbers speak for themselves. The bank has been profitable for 30 consecutive years. On average, within the first year of making a mortgage loan to a client, the bank sells seven additional products to them. Loans have grown at an 18% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) since 2010. Tangible book value per share has increased 16% CAGR over the same period.
Perhaps most impressive of all, of the $139.5 billion in loans originated at the bank since 1985, only 0.23% have ever been charged off as a loss. Using data from the FDIC, the average of all U.S. banks over the same period is four times as high.
The bank's consistency is remarkable by itself, but even more so given the elite level of its performance year after year. That consistent high performance is why I think First Republic is as close to a slam dunk as one can get when picking bank stocks for 2016.
A contrarian pick for the risk takers
Comerica (NYSE:CMA) has fallen 10% in 2015 as of this writing, putting it squarely in the bottom quartile of banks for the year. Comerica has large exposures to the oil and gas industry, which has suffered in recent quarters because of persistently low oil and gas commodity prices. Those low prices are hurting the industry's profitability and cash flow used to pay back its loans each month, as well as smacking the values of the assets that banks such as Comerica use to secure loans to these businesses. It's an ugly situation for any bank to find themselves in.
Even within this economic environment, I still think the market has pushed Comerica too far down. Comerica has been very proactive in setting aside extra capital to protect the bank from extended problems in the oil and gas industry, even as its overall ratio of nonperforming assets to total assets has remained fairly stable. Non-performing assets are severely past-due loans plus foreclosures. In the third quarter, that ratio was 0.54% versus 0.50% in the second quarter. Even so, the bank continued to add to its reserves in the third quarter, continuing its conservative approach.
Among the banks with significant oil and gas exposure, I think Comerica is the best prepared to weather the storm and come out far ahead of the competition. For a more detailed analysis of Comerica's upside and risks, click here.
A bank with something to prove
Since the financial crisis, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) has arguably taken more bumps and bruises than any other company in the United States.
The bank's rapid growth via acquisition backfired when the crisis struck; the weight of the Countrywide acquisition nearly collapsed the entire bank. After stepping back from the brink, the bank has faced regulatory criticism, Justice Department scrutiny, public vitriol, and self-inflicted wounds like no other. The bank's CEO, Brian Moynihan, estimates the financial crisis and subsequent fallout cost the bank north of $195 billion.
Today, the vast majority of the issues that drove that insane price tag are behind Bank of America. In the 2015 second quarter, a court ruled that any claims against the bank for faulty mortgage-backed securities sold before the financial crisis must be made within six years of the date the security was purchased. Effectively, that means the bank is free and clear moving forward.
Managing through each of the successive crises the bank faced over this time span has been a major drag on resources, both financial and human. In 2016, those resources can finally be reallocated to more productive, value-creating initiatives. Bank of America has something to prove, and I think 2016 could be the year when the bank finally does it.