Tags: US | Financial | Stocks

Financial Shares Rise as Reform Bill Clears Senate

Friday, 21 May 2010 04:20 PM

Financial stocks climbed Friday, a day after the Senate's passage of a financial reform bill lifted one cloud of uncertainty that had been hanging over the industry.

Still, worries loom that Europe's debt problems could stifle a recovery in the global economy.

The Senate on Thursday voted 59-39 for the overhaul. The bill offers the most far-reaching restrictions on major banks since the Great Depression. It must now be reconciled with a House version that passed in December.

"It's not so much that investors love financial regulations, it's the clarity," said Jack A. Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank. "Investors can make educated investments now."

The rally follows a dismal four weeks for financial shares. They dropped 15 percent during that time, the worst performance of the 10 sectors in the Standard & Poor's 500. Besides the pending reform bill, investors have been spooked by the debt crisis in Europe and the health of the global economy.

Traders fear that huge deficits in Greece and Portugal could cause a deluge of bad debt to wash through the world's financial system.

These concerns likely will return, said Jim Herrick, manager of equity trading at Baird & Co.

"This could be short-lived," he said of Friday's rally.

JP Morgan Chase & Co. shares jumped $2.02, or 5.4 percent, to $39.85, in afternoon trading, while Bank of America Corp. rose 59 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $15.89.

Citigroup Inc.'s stock added 12 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $3.75.

Shares of former investment banks got a boost as well. Morgan Stanley shares rose $1.27, or 5 percent, to $26.91, and Goldman Sachs climbed $6.15, or 4.5 percent, to $142.25.

The stock of some regional banks and credit card companies also rose in Friday trading.

Huntington Bancshares Inc. added 26 cents or 4.4 percent to $6.11, while M&I Corp. increased 35 cents, or 4.6 percent, to $7.96. Visa Inc. shares edged up 95 cents to $73.77 and MasterCard Inc.'s stock gained $5.46, or 2.7 percent, to $210.96. Discover Financial Services rose 26 cents, or 2 percent, to $13.30.

The Senate's reform bill includes ways to monitor financial system risks and introduces rules for complex securities that played a role in the 2008 financial meltdown. It also creates a new consumer protection agency and makes it easier to unwind failing financial firms.

There would be new restraints on the biggest, most interconnected banks and would require proof that borrowers can pay their mortgages.

The sector received other news on Friday.

The Treasury Department said it believes taxpayers won't lose as much from the financial bailouts as previously estimated. It now forecasts the bailout bill will total $105.4 billion, or $11.4 billion less than projected by the Obama Administration in February.

And on Thursday, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said the largest banks have improved with the help from bailout money and record-low interest rates from the Federal Reserve. Most of the major financial firms recorded increases in net income in the first quarter.

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