Financial sector 'rooting' for rate hike: Diamond

Financial services rooting for higher rates: Diamond
Financial services rooting for higher rates: Diamond

Financial services stocks are primed to break out from a sluggish patch partly fueled by sustained low interest rates in the United States, former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond said on Monday.

Diamond now serves as CEO of Atlas Merchant Capital, which focuses on financial services. The sector is "rooting for higher rates" and Diamond believes they are overdue, he told CNBC.

"There's virtually nothing in the financial services area that's benefiting from continued lower and lower rates," he said from the Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles.

Bob Diamond, former CEO of Barclays.
Justin Solomon | CNBC

Markets—and many investors in financials—have watched for indications of when the U.S. Federal Reserve will hike the federal funds rate after years of near-zero rates. Diamond noted that a move higher likely would not happen "quickly."

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The S&P 500 financials sector has dropped 2 percent this year versus a 2 percent gain for the . Still, Diamond remains "very bullish" on financial stocks.

But the sector may have to wait to break out. A sluggish first quarter for the U.S. economy and low inflation has fueled broad speculation that the Fed may act on interest rates later rather than sooner.

Diamond added that he supports the European Central Bank's bond-buying program, but feels monetary policy alone will not solve Europe's problems. Labor and capital market and bank reforms are likely needed to boost Europe, as well, he said.