2) Credit Card Check
At the end of January, we wrote that Citigroup analysts liked credit card companies relative to other financial stocks . The firm raised the question of whether signs of stabilization might make room for investing opportunities. The firm picked Capital One Financial ( COF) and American Express ( AXP) as stocks that may benefit from loan growth. Now, Citigroup has updated its perspective on credit conditions. The firm says that the senior loan officers' survey from the Federal Reserve suggests that "European banks have pulled back additionally due to internal capital needs and US banks have backed off European lending, dragging down overall conditions." However, the firm concludes that "recessionary trends seem far off especially as ISM and ECRI leading indices rebound and stock prices are not set to plunge even as some consolidation of gains seems probable." The firm adds that recent data from the Federal Reserve showed "some lessening of eased credit for the small business sector," although it also says "the recent National Federation of Independent Business surveys do not look worrisome on the credit front. Indeed, some pickup in lending activity was noted." The takeaway is that investors should still be fairly confident about credit conditions. The rebound in loans is usually considered a lagging indicator since credit card trends are a "key precursor" to business investment activity. "Arguably some slowdown in loan growth is anticipated from the faster pace and easier credit seen in the past two years while comps are more difficult, but U.S. recession calls seem as premature as they did months ago," writes Citigroup.