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US banks are now truly turning the page, asset manager says

The dark days of the financial crisis seem to be over for North American banks with one analyst telling CNBC that rising interest rates will boost margins and increase optimism after a period a readjustment for Wall Street lenders.

"When we look at the general landscape, I would say U.S. banks seem to be clearly ending with the eight-year crisis cycle or rebuilding cycle. We've seen signs that U.S. banks are truly turning the page," David Benamou, managing partner at Axiom Alternative Investments, told CNBC on Tuesday.

Benamou's words come amid flurry of Wall Street earnings. JPMorgan reported last Thursday first-quarter earnings and revenue above expectations on higher loan growth and trading sales. Revenue reached $25.586 billion compared to the $24.877 billion expected by analysts. Citigroup, meanwhile, also reported higher-than-expected first-quarter earnings, with a net income higher by 17 percent year-over-year boosted by a rise in revenue and lower cost of credit. Its fixed income trading soared 19 percent in comparison to the same period last year.

As Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch prepare to release their numbers on Tuesday, Benamou told CNBC that one should expect last week's positive tone to be repeated. Indeed, expectations of higher interest rates in the U.S. are one of the main drivers of the optimism surrounding U.S. banks as these should boost banks' margins.

Bank earnings have been suppressed in the recent low-rate environment, but lenders tend to do well when yields rise and they can charge borrowers more and garner more profits on all sorts of better-yielding investments.

Chris Wheeler, a U.S. banks analyst at Atlantic Equities, noted last Thursday that "much better fixed income results compared to this time last year" also supported banks' performance. President Donald Trump's election win has accentuated a belief of higher inflation going forward, which has in turn led to sharp repositioning in the bond markets. This increased activity has further added to the profits of Wall Street lenders.

However, Wheeler warned that commercial lending has fallen. "Commercial lending was particularly strong in last two or three years, it's been very slow since the election," Wheeler told CNBC.

"Optimism is quite high but everyone is a little bit nervous about when we should come in, what's the president going to do, what changes are going to come through, so they've been holding back, so loan growth is going to be a big focus of these numbers," he added.

Promises from the new U.S. administration to slash regulation and to invest in infrastructure have further boosted banks' share prices.

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