A recent report from Kroll Bond Ratings Agency Senior Managing Director Christopher Whalen suggested that one area that the Trump administration should focus on in its regulatory reform efforts is the requirement that financial institutions hold capital to prevent the need for a bailout in a financial downturn.
As a result of those requirements, the country’s six largest banks currently hold more than $100 billion in excess capital, according to a new article from the Wall Street Journal.
So, what happens to all that money if the capital requirements are overhauled or eliminated? It could be quite the windfall for investors, as it turns out.
The six biggest U.S. banks could potentially return more than $100 billion in capital to investors over time through dividends and share buybacks if the Trump administration succeeds in a push to loosen bank regulation.
That caused bank stocks to gain ground Friday, building on sharp increases since the presidential election. Those occurred as expectations among investors of higher interest rates, less regulation and stronger economic growth stoked optimism that banks will be able to return more capital to shareholders. While there is no guarantee the banks will do so when they are able, they have been eager in recent years to return capital as their profits have grown and their balance sheets have become less risky.
The top six U.S. banks have $101.57 billion in capital in excess of what regulators require them to set aside, according to research from RBC Capital Markets. Analysts at Morgan Stanley estimate such capital at around $120 billion across 18 of the largest banks.
It should be noted that thus far there has been no direct indication that either the Trump administration or the Republican majority in Congress intends to pursue a change to the post-crisis capital requirements, but as Whalen and the Wall Street Journal separately note, it’s certainly an option.
And if it happens, investors could win big.
Again from the WSJ:
Being able to release more or all of that capital would be a boon to banks and their investors in several ways. First, banks would likely return much of the capital through dividend increases or higher share buybacks. The latter, by decreasing the number of shares a bank has outstanding, helps to boost earnings per share. That, in turn, can boost share prices.
Goldman Sachs bank analysts said the average big U.S. bank could boost 2018 earnings per share by 13% if all excess capital is returned to shareholders via buybacks.
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