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Bank blowout: Big bank earnings should propel the financials from worst to first

As the bank earnings flurry rolls on this week, the financials sector should be able to play catch-up and return to being one of the best-performing groups in the market.

This week, we await quarterly earnings from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Bank of America reported better-than-expected results on Monday. Last Friday, J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo and Citigroup reported quarterly earnings, all beating analysts' earnings per share expectations, but ultimately seeing their respective stocks trade lower on the session.

If the market is to continue its march higher and show positive returns this year, I think the financial stocks will need to step up and become one of the leading sectors ahead.

Financials lag

Consider where the financials are trading right now. The sector is the worst-performing S&P 500 sector in one month's time; on the year, the group is off nearly 2 percent, under-performing the market. This standing should improve as earnings come in.

Financial stocks and banking should thrive in this environment, given the economy and consumer balance sheets are strong, which altogether should spur loan growth and lending. Interest rates, too, have risen, and this should help banks' net interest income revenue.

Meanwhile, increased market volatility should also bode well for banks' trading activity, along with strong merger and acquisition activity. And, of course, regulatory restrictions are easing in the banking industry.

At the same time, headwinds exist. The yield curve has flattened as investors have rushed to Treasurys as a safe haven. I do believe this is temporary, and that the bank stocks' pullback is a solid buying opportunity.

How to play the space

If investors are interested in buying the sector but not comfortable in picking individual stocks, investors can utilize exchange-traded funds, like the XLF (for larger-cap names) and the KBWR (for regional banks), to gain exposure to the sector.

Both should perform well if the banking sector's fundamentals remain sound.

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Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Sara Eisen

Sara Eisen joined CNBC in December 2013 as a correspondent, focusing on the global consumer. She is co-anchor of the 10AM ET hour of CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" (M-F, 9AM-11AM ET), broadcast from Post 9 at the New York Stock Exchange.

In March 2018, Eisen was named co-anchor of CNBC's "Power Lunch" (M-F, 1PM-3PM ET), which broadcasts from CNBC Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

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