When these big banks were allowed to increase their dividends earlier this year, it was big news in the banking world because they were among the biggest and healthiest of the 19 banks subjected to stress tests by the Federal Reserve .
When federal regulators allowed them to boost their dividends and increase shareholder buybacks it was seen by markets as a clear signal that the crisis had ended and the banking industry was on the mend.
For Bank of America , which did not get the green light, it was a sign of the struggles to come.
Even for the names seen as healthy, however, investor confidence quickly eroded with the crisis in Europe and ongoing fears of a crackdown on banks by regulators and the courts.
Still, the results of that test are compelling.
Since March 21, about the time banks began reporting their plans for dividends and buybacks, Bank of America shares have lost more than 50 percent compared to 28.96 percent for JPMorgan, 23.55 percent for Wells Fargo and 10.35 percent for U.S. Bancorp.
You can be sure regulators are keeping a close eye on all the banks these days, however, and others of decent size that make big payouts to their shareholders ought to be in decent shape.
For those with the biggest dividend yields, it pays to go down in size a bit.
TheStreet took a look at U.S. banks with a market cap of at least $1 billion and found five names with dividend yields of more than 6 percent. With a 10-year Treasury yield of less than 2 percent, that's pretty attractive.
Nonetheless, you will see that most of these names have a stock chart over the past six months that declines so sharply you would need a rope to climb down it.
The sharp declines of these high-yielding bank stocks is somewhat surprising since investors are clearly attracted to high-yielding names of late as U.S. Treasurys have suffered.
Consider Annaly Capital Management , which is not a bank stock but a mortgage real estate investment trust. Its shares are up on the year, and the more than 14 percent dividend yield would seem to have a lot to do with the shares' success.
However, Annaly shares would get hurt if the Treasury yield curve were to flatten in a "Japan-like scenario," according to an Aug. 2 report from Sandler O'Neill.
Banks might be a better relative play under such a scenario. If the economy strengthens even just a little, banks would appear to offer greater total return potential.
Here, then, are the sector's high-yieding names than have a market cap of at least $1 billion.
5. Hudson City Bancorp Dividend yield: 6.12 percent
Hudson City was one of the better banks when it came to navigating the housing crisis but has run into trouble due to the continued low interest rate environment. Because Hudson City was positioned for a rise in interest rates that still hasn't come, regulators required the bank to restructure its balance sheet — a costly move that forced a dividend cut.
FBR Capital Markets has a "market perform" on Hudson City and a $9 price target, compared to its $6.03 share price on Friday's close. Analyst Bob Ramsey called Hudson City "well-capitalized" in a July 21 report and said he expected capital to continue to build.
He cited management comment that the low interest rate environment means "earnings in the near term may come under pressure," signaling to Ramsey that earnings per share could decline below the $0.19 the New York bank posted in the second quarter.
"We are cautious, but model sufficient improvement in credit costs to offset further deterioration in net interest income," Ramsey wrote.
4. First Niagara Financial Dividend yield: 6.13 percent
First Niagara recently announced a deal to acquire 195 branches and $15 billion in deposits from HSBC for $1 billion. Sandler O'Neill analyst Joseph Fenech applauded the move, upgrading the stock to "buy" from "hold" in an Aug. 3 report.
"The transaction adds meaningful scale in the company's home markets in upstate New York and fills in what were the few holes in the footprint. From a market share perspective, the company is likely to leapfrog its main competitor (M&T Bank Corp.) in Buffalo (where both are based), bolster its already-meaningful presence across the state in Albany, assume top market share in Rochester, and establish a solid position in the middle of the state in Syracuse (which had been the most obvious hole in the footprint)," Fenech wrote.
Fenech also called the deal "consistent with the longer-term strategy" arguing it "completes the company's journey from mutual thrift to well-established commercial bank."
3. Valley National Bancorp Dividend yield: 6.20 percent
Second-quarter earnings results "failed to inspire," according to a July 29 report from RBC Capital Markets analyst Gerard Cassidy, who wrote that "elevated unusual securities gains masked lower fee revenues and the building reliance on residential mortgage production." He added that investors tend not to attribute a high multiple to the latter business.
On the other hand, Cassidy praised "consistent" net interest revenue and "reasonable" expense controls. His 12-month price target of $15 compares to Friday's closing price of $11.11.
"We believe that on a fundamental basis Valley National Corporation is fairly valued, but it may be undervalued on an acquisition basis. We believe the results for this year will continue to be challenged by a very competitive business climate, higher operating expenses and an ultra-competitive loan environment. Though we think very highly of the company and its senior management team, we regard the stock on a fundamental basis as fairly valued both on an absolute basis and relative to the market as a whole," Cassidy wrote.
2. New York Community Bancorp Dividend yield: 7.76 percent
Following a recent trip with management, FBR Capital Market analyst Bob Ramsey reiterated his "outperform" rating and $17 price target on New York Community Bancorp, shares of which closed Friday at $12.89.
Investors were certainly concerned about the company's ability to pay its dividend, which Ramsey called "the biggest question in every meeting." Ramsey went on to write that investors are concerned regulators will force the bank to pare back its dividend, particularly if earnings fall below the $0.26 New York Community Bancorp earned in the second quarter.
Not to fear, however, Ramsey writes. "While its payout ratio is high, we consider the dividend secure." He expects the bank will earn its dividend, though even in the case of a modest shortfall the bank would be compliant with guidance on dividends issued by the Federal Reserve in April 2009.
Ramsey concludes that "capital is strong" at the Westbury, N.Y.-based institution.
1. Capital Federal Financial Dividend yield: 9.3 percent
Following a recent road trip with senior management, Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst Damon DelMonte reiterated an "outperform" rating and $14 price target. Capital Federal's shares closed at $11.16 on Friday.
"While CapFed isn't isolated from the industry headwinds, we believe it continues to offer a safe harbor for investors during a time of market volatility with its strong capital position and lower-risk balance sheet," DelMonte wrote.
The analyst argues investors "get what they see" from the Kansas bank, which is "a conservatively managed thrift that does not feel pressured to stretch for growth or take undue risk in order to generate a short-term return."
Nonetheless, DelMonte sees pressure the amount of profit CapFed can squeeze out of its loans due to declining long-term interest rates—a problem he argues is common "with most other banks." With the shares at $10.64 on Sept. 12, when DelMonte published his note, they offered a valuation of 90 percent of tangible book value, which DelMonte found attractive.
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