A Challenge for Bank ETFs: Analysts Turn Sour on Bank Stocks

The Financial Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLF) and other financial services exchange traded funds are being challenged by what investors perceive as a surprisingly dovish Federal Reserve and other factors. Among those other are factors is the first-quarter earnings, which kicks off in earnest for the financial sector next week.

Some analysts and traders argue that investors should be careful in making bullish bets on the financial services space, the S&P 500’s second-largest sector allocation, leading up to earnings season. In fact, analysts currently are not all that enthusiastic regarding bank stocks.

“One standout sentiment analysis factor for bank stocks has been the steep decline in the number of “buy” ratings among analysts,” according to Schaeffer’s Investment Research. “For example, the percentage of “buy” recommendations for stocks that fall under our “Banks” umbrella currently sits at just 36% — tied for the lowest among all of the 36 sectors we track. This is a sharp decline from 54% “buy” ratings at this time last year.”

Some bank stocks are more beloved than others as highlighted by some recent analyst chatter.

KBW has mixed views on first-quarter results for some of XLF’s biggest holdings. The research firm is “raising first-quarter earnings estimates for Bank of New York Mellon (BK), State Street (STT), and Wells Fargo (WFC). He is lowering estimates for Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C), Goldman Sachs (GS), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Morgan Stanley (MS),” according to part of a KBW note posted by Crystal Kim of Barron’s.