Bank stocks ended a particularly volatile month in August 2011 on something of a good note, which masked the intra-month volatility. Looking forward, does this greater stock price volatility represent a “new normal,” as banks face an environment marked by greater macroeconomic risk?
Three bank stock indices we track performed as follows in August, relative to the S&P 500:
While the deterioration in market values evident in the table above is substantial, the declines are even more significant when measured at points earlier in the month. Table 2 indicates the compression in market values between July 29, 2011 and the lowest point observed for each index in August1:
For example, the aggregate SNL Bank Index declined by 22% between July 29, 2011 and its August 22nd low, although subsequent gains cut this loss to 10% by month-end. Chart 1 provides daily observations for the four indices during August 2011.
The volatile performance appeared to be driven by various factors:
While these general factors affected most stocks in August, we attempted to isolate which factors most affected the performance of publicly traded banks in August. The following table shows the performance of banks in August stratified by asset size.
At August 31, 2011, no banks with assets exceeding $5 billion reported a higher stock price than at July 29, 2011, and larger banks generally reported weaker performance than smaller banks. This reflects several factors:
We also examined the relationship between August 2011 stock market performance and return on tangible common equity. As indicated in the following table, banks with stronger profitability generally performed better, as measured by the median change in their respective stock prices, providing some evidence that investors were more apt to avoid banks with lower profitability, since such banks may have less wherewithal to manage more distressed economic conditions.
Given the depths to which some bank stocks fell in August, we thought it interesting to compare the price/tangible book value multiples, measured based on each bank’s lowest stock price during the month, to the price/tangible book value multiples observed as of December 31, 2008, which represents a proxy for the timing of most distressed period of the financial crisis. This analysis indicates the following:
For perspective, the chart below plots the changes in the price/tangible book value multiples reported by the publicly traded banks between December 31, 2008 and their respective August 2011 lows.
1 These low points occurred on August 8th for the S&P 500; August 19th for the SNL Bank Index comprised of banks with between $1 and $5 billion of assets; August 22nd for the aggregate SNL Bank Index; and August 25th for the SNL Bank Index comprised of banks with between $500 million and $1 billion of assets.
Originally published in Mercer Capital’s Bank Watch 2011-09, released September 15, 2011