Those looking for a sign that the meandering broader stock market could flat out plunge in coming months amid uncertainty over Trump administration policy should pull up a chart on the banks.
The KBW Bank Index, which reflects the share price performances of 21 major banks, has declined by about 3.1% over the last five sessions. For comparison, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has been relatively unchanged. The showing marks a sharp reversal from how bank stocks acted in the wake of Donald Trump's surprising presidential win, as optimism on how his policies would shape the U.S. economy was evident. From Election Day through the end of 2016, the KBW Bank Index tacked on a cool 28% vs. a gain of 8.6% for the Dow.
But investors yanked $749 million from the global financial sector for the week through last Wednesday, the first outflows in 17 weeks, according to EPFR Global.
The KBW Bank Index (white line) has tanked as of late
What makes weakness in the banks a particular red flag is that it has arrived against a backdrop of solid earnings from investment banks Morgan Stanley (MS) - Get Report and Goldman Sachs (GS) - Get Report due to a boost from increased trading. These investment banks aren't included in the index. Money center banks such as Bank of America (BAC) - Get Report , JPMorgan & Chase (JPM) - Get Report and Citigroup (C) - Get Report , which are included in the KBW Bank Index, also notched generally good fourth quarters and shared upbeat commentary.
Citigroup is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells C? Learn more now.
But with President Trump having supplied very little in the way of specifics on his policies, especially about the critical first 100 days of his administration, investors could be growing concerned about how the U.S. economy will shake out in the first half of the year. Banks are the lifeblood of the economy, providing everything from business loans to car loans to extending credit to people looking to shop at the mall. If consumers start to question their financial well-being under Trump, banks will be some of the first companies to take a hit.
And that may be something that is currently starting to take hold among households if one is to believe the market is a predictor of the future. At the very least, the bank sector is worth paying extra attention to in coming sessions.
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Costco is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells COST? Learn more now.