Big banks can’t depend on surging capital markets: report

By James Langton | July 20, 2020 | Last updated on July 20, 2020
2 min read
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The capital markets boom that helped bolster financial firms’ revenues in the first half of 2020 is not likely to last into the second half, says Fitch Ratings.

In a new report, the rating agency said that surging capital markets — which followed a huge spike in market volatility, and a rush to raise both debt and equity among corporations — is unlikely to be sustained in the latter part of this year.

Fitch noted that capital markets revenues at the five big U.S. banks surged 63% in the second quarter of 2020 to US$44.9 billion, “propelled by a rush to raise cash as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.”

“The five major U.S. banks reported some of the strongest capital markets revenues in at least a decade as central bank stimulus provoked a boom in debt and equity issuance,” said Christopher Wolfe, managing director at Fitch, in a release.

This rise in capital markets revenues helped offset weaknesses in other parts of banks’ businesses.

For example, Fitch said that Bank of America, Citi and JP Morgan “leaned on trading and investment banking more than usual to offset the impact of a weak economy.”

Said Wolfe: “The surge buffered a tougher operating market overall for U.S. banks, but it is unlikely to completely offset weaker results later this year.”

Indeed, Fitch said that the rise in capital markets revenues “will likely taper off for the rest of the year due to the usual seasonal decline in issuance volumes and trading activity, along with lower announced M&A.”

M&A activity in particular “was a soft spot” for the big banks, Fitch noted, and economic uncertainty could mean short-term depression of activity in that space going forward.

“While capital markets activity is likely to soften later this year, the re-imposition of state or regional lockdowns could create further uncertainties that drive more entities to raise capital,” Wolfe added.

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James Langton

James is a senior reporter for and its sister publication, Investment Executive. He has been reporting on regulation, securities law, industry news and more since 1994.