NEW YORK (
) -- The big four banks --
Bank of America
-- may have their worst days behind them according to readers of
In a poll conducted last week, an overwhelming 90% of the 756 voters said they expected banks to outperform in the second half of the year because valuations were way too cheap. Only 80 voters felt that economic concerns will weigh on the big four.
The results were surprising considering the number of arguments that have been stacked against the big banks since the
and the latest quarterly numbers were released.
downgraded its outlook for the big banks, interpreting the newly-passed regulations as a sign that big banks were losing support. Top-rated analyst Meredith Whitney told
last week that big banks were most vulnerable as they controlled two-thirds of the mortgage market and were in the worst of it in terms of exposure to real estate. She also said that the big four would experience the toughest growing pains as they rationalize their capital markets business.
Big banks are also likely to face higher litigation costs as they deal with a number of lawsuits regarding their role in the financial crisis. Bank of America said in its latest filing with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
on Monday morning that it expects its litigation costs to soar to $1.4 billion.
With a lack of any strong drivers of revenue growth for banks, investors are looking to the M&A space for triggers to valuation. Regional banks especially have been getting more interest, as mergers and acquisition deals are expected to ramp up in the second half. But the big four, already deemed too big to fail, are expected to stay clear of the deal space.
Still, bulls argue that many of the concerns are already priced in, with valuations at low levels. The big four may find other ways of compensating for lost income as a result of new rules governing debit-interchange fees or overdraft charges. They may pass on higher fees to consumers. Global banks like Citigroup may rely on their international operations to drive growth. And irrespective of the negative headlines, the consensus recommendation for the top four is outperform, according to
. Big banks may win in the second half after all.
-- Reported by Shanthi Venkataraman in New York.
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