Higher funding costs, potential regulatory capital weaknesses and rising risks tied to commercial real estate loans amid weakening demand for office space were the triple whammy of factors that prompted Moody’s to lower credit ratings for 10 small and midsize US banks; and noted in a slew of notes that it may downgrade major lenders.
“Collectively, these three developments have lowered the credit profile of a number of US banks, though not all banks equally,” the ratings agency wrote in some of the assessments.
Firms that had ratings cut included M&T Bank Corp., Webster Financial Corp., BOK Financial Corp., Old National Bancorp, Pinnacle Financial Partners Inc., and Fulton Financial Corp.
Northern Trust Co. and Cullen/Frost Bankers Inc. are also under review for downgrades.
Moody’s also adopted a “negative” outlook for 11 lenders, including PNC Financial Services Group, Capital One Financial Corp., Citizens Financial Group Inc., Fifth Third Bancorp, Regions Financial Corp., Ally Financial Inc., Bank OZK and Huntington Bancshares Inc.
The S&P Regional Bank Index is down around 3% in the early market…
Despite Washington (and Wall St) going to great lengths to restore confidence, Moody’s warned that banks with substantial unrealized losses that are not captured by their regulatory capital ratios may still be susceptible to sudden losses of market or consumer confidence in a high interest rate environment.
“Rising funding costs and declining income metrics will erode profitability, the first buffer against losses,” Moody’s wrote in a separate note explaining the moves.
“Asset risk is rising, in particular for small and midsize banks with large CRE exposures.”
“U.S. banks continue to contend with interest rate and asset-liability management (ALM) risks with implications for liquidity and capital, as the wind-down of unconventional monetary policy drains system-wide deposits and higher interest rates depress the value of fixed-rate assets,” Moody’s analysts Jill Cetina and Ana Arsov said in the accompanying research note.
“Meanwhile, many banks’ Q2 results showed growing profitability pressures that will reduce their ability to generate internal capital. This comes as a mild U.S. recession is on the horizon for early 2024 and asset quality looks set to decline from solid but unsustainable levels, with particular risks in some banks’ commercial real estate (CRE) portfolios.”
Finally, Moody’s warns of more pain to come:
“We continue to expect a mild recession in early 2024, and given the funding strains on the U.S. banking sector, there will likely be a tightening of credit conditions and rising loan losses for U.S. banks.”
And cue the “financial system is resilient as ever” comments and dismay at the ‘downgrade’ from the Fed/TSY.