WHAT a difference a year makes. When America’s big banks reported first-quarter earnings for 2016, the mood was glum. The Federal Reserve was proving tardier than hoped in raising interest rates, which held down lending margins. Jitters about the world economy meant rotten results for investment-banking units, in what is usually their best season of the year. Regulators added to the misery: last April the Fed rejected the “living wills”—plans for liquidating lenders that get into trouble—of five of the six largest banks.
This spring bankers are happier. Business perked up last year after that dismal start. Donald Trump’s election in November, accompanied by promises to ginger up the American economy, cut corporate taxes and roll back regulation of finance, gave banks’ shares a lift (see chart). The Fed raised rates in December and again in March and is likely to keep increasing them. And 2017’s first-quarter results have, mostly, seen an improvement—though the cheer was not evenly shared.
“Wall Street activities have performed better than Main Street ones,” says Mike Mayo, an independent bank analyst. Revenues from capital-market…Continue reading