TOO BIG TO LOSE

Trump criticized Clinton for her Wall Street ties, but he’s the best thing to happen to big banks

Obsession
2016
Obsession
2016

During the election campaign much was made of Hillary Clinton’s connection to Wall Street and the millions of dollars she made giving private speeches to banks after her tenure as secretary of state. Donald Trump used this to attack Clinton, saying she was “owned by the banks.” But he was “not going to let Wall Street get away with murder,” he said earlier this year, and he pledged to tax the financial industry.

Even so, his victory in the presidential election is seen by investors as the best possible thing to happen to the big banks. The share price of Goldman Sachs has rallied about 5% since the vote, to the highest in a year. JPMorgan Chase’s share price is the highest it’s ever been, and Wells Fargo stocks are now higher than before the fake-accounts scandal broke.

Traders and bankers are taking to heart Trump’s campaign promise to cut bank regulation. His new website as president-elect specifically targets the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act and says it will be dismantled when he’s in office. The Dodd-Frank act includes hundreds of rules passed after the financial crash to make banks stronger and safer. Banks had to spend a lot of money adapting to the new regulation and have had to set aside more and safer assets for their balance sheets. If this law is scrapped, it’ll be easier for them to go back to making the risky trades that make the most money.

Another boost to banks’ bottom lines is the expectation that Trump’s fiscal stimulus will increase inflation, while the Federal Reserve will stick to its plans to raise interest rates. This has pushed up the yields on bonds and other interest rates. As banks make money on the margin between the assets they borrow and lend, higher rates are great for their profits. Morgan Stanley analysts said a 1% rise in rates would increase big banks’ per-share earnings by 5.5%.

There’s also speculation Trump will bring Wall Street into the heart of his cabinet. His likely pick for Treasury Secretary is Steven Mnuchin, the campaign’s chief fundraiser and a 17-year Goldman Sachs veteran. He had key roles in investment bank’s mortgage operations before starting a hedge fund with backing from George Soros.

And then there’s Trump’s support of the most financially risky bank in the world: Deutsche Bank. Since 1998, the German bank has helped loan at least $2.5 billion to companies affiliated with Trump, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall). Deutsche Bank’s share price was near a record low before the election as it faces billions of dollars of legal fines from the financial crisis and fears that its balance sheet is too weak. But Trump’s victory has delivered a boost to the stock of even this struggling bank.

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