Bank ETFs In Focus As The Fed Hikes Rates Again

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September 27, 2018 6:00am NYSE:XLF

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From Zacks: The two-day Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting has started on Sep 25. Per the CME Group FedWatch Tool, the odds of a rate hike are 94%, which will be the eighth-rate hike since December 2015.

The popular Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF – Free Report) had inflows of $995 million over the past week (as of Sep 25), the highest since December and SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF (KRE – Free Report) has attracted $309 million over the past five trading days (as of Sep 25) as investor are flocking toward financial ETFs having heavy exposure to banks to gain from rising interest rate scenario (read: Here’s Why Should You Buy Financial ETFs).

“Higher interest rates tend to boost banks’ profitability by expanding net interest margins, or the difference between what they make borrowing and what they make lending,” according to CNBC.

The hike in rates is a sign of an improving economy and banking sector is closely tied to how the nation’s economy functions. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note touched 3.113% (on Sep 25), just shy of its 2018 high of 3.128% that it hit in May. The yield on the 30-year Treasury bond hit 3.249%, its highest level since May 18.

A steeper yield curve leads to large interest margins for banks that like to borrow at short-term rates and lend for the long term. So, the present situation is a tailwind toward bigger bottom lines for the banking companies. Also, the large-cap banks have been investing in online platforms and mobile apps which will lure the young millennials and increase bottom lines as fewer costs will be incurred to maintain physical branches (read: ETFs to Win & Lose as Third Rate Hike Looms).

However, the short-term rates are rising in response to the rate hikes but long-term rates are not picking up due to growth and trade war concerns.  As per a recent reading the spread between the short and long terms has been 26 basis points and has been narrowing since late 2016. This could lead to an inverted yield curve-where the short-term rates surpass the long-term rates and result in a possible recession in the near future.

Investors should note that the rising rate scenario has drawn investor’s interest in financial ETFs lately. However, the flattening of the yield curve could not result in as much profits for banks as expected.

Banking ETFs in Focus


It tracks the S&P Regional Banks Select Industry Index. It comprises 127 holdings. AUM is $5.23 billion and expense ratio is 0.35%. It has a Zacks ETF Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and High risk outlook.

SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE – Free Report)

It tracks the S&P Banks Select Industry Index. There are 85 holdings in the fund’s pool. AUM is $3.52 billion and expense ratio is 0.35%. It has a Zacks ETF Rank #2(Buy) with a High risk outlook.

First Trust Nasdaq Bank ETF (FTXO – Free Report)

It tracks the Nasdaq U.S. Smart Banks Index. There are 31 holdings in the fund’s pool. AUM is $1.41 billion and expense ratio is 0.60%. It has Zacks ETF Rank #3 (Hold).

Invesco KBW Bank ETF (KBWB – Free Report)

It tracks the KBW Bank Index and has 24 holdings. AUM is $963 million and expense ratio is 0.35%. It has Zacks ETF Rank #2 with a High risk outlook.

The Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF) was unchanged in premarket trading Thursday. Year-to-date, XLF has gained 0.58%, versus a 9.06% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.

XLF currently has an ETF Daily News SMART Grade of A (Strong Buy), and is ranked #1 of 36 ETFs in the Financial Equities ETFs category.

This article is brought to you courtesy of Zacks Research.

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