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Will Market Volatility Hurt SunTrust (STI) Q1 Earnings?

SunTrust Banks, Inc. STI is slated to release first-quarter 2016 results on Apr 22, before the market opens.

Last quarter, SunTrust’s earnings were driven by improvement in net interest income, lower provision for credit losses and a fall in operating expenses. Moreover, the company recorded an average positive surprise of 10.82% for the trailing four quarters.

Will SunTrust be able to maintain its earnings streak in this quarter? Or will it succumb to revenue pressure?

Factors at Play

Equity markets witnessed high volatility in January and February keeping investors away from the markets. Therefore, SunTrust’s trading income will likely remain low owing to pressure on trading bonds and other fixed-income products, lower client activity and a shift toward electronic trading.

Further, per a data compiled by Thomson Reuters, equity capital markets activity totaled $110.8 billion during the first quarter, down 56% year over year. Moreover, the data projected a 55% year-over-year drop in equity underwriting fees for the entire industry. Also, the data shows that M&A advisory fees totaled $5.3 billion during the quarter, a decline of 18% year over year.

We expect SunTrust’s financials to reflect these industry trends. As a result, the company’s advisory revenues and equity underwriting revenues will remain under strain in the to-be-reported quarter. Apart from this, lower loan demand will lead to a fall in mortgage banking income.

Though the company remains undeterred in its efforts to improve efficiency, expenses are expected to trend higher in 2016 as the company makes efforts to improve revenues. In the first quarter, personnel expenses are expected to increase nearly $100 million due to seasonality; while marketing and customer development costs are projected to rise in the first half of the year.

Further, due to a still low interest rate environment, SunTrust’s net interest margin (“NIM”) will continue to face considerable strain. However, management expects NIM to increase 3–5 bps sequentially in the first quarter due to the impact of December rate hike.

Moreover, though provision for loan losses is expected to be on the higher side largely led by the company’s energy loan exposure, overall credit quality is anticipated to reflect improvement in the upcoming release.

SunTrust’s activities during the quarter were inadequate to win analysts’ confidence. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the quarter remained unchanged at 76 cents per share over the last 7 days.

Earnings Whispers

Our proven model does not conclusively show that SunTrust is likely to beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate in the first quarter. This is because a stock needs to have both a positive Earnings ESP and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or at least #2 (Buy) or #3 (Hold) for this to happen. Unfortunately, this is not the case here as elaborated below.

Zacks ESP: The Earnings ESP for SunTrust is -1.32%. This is because the Most Accurate estimate of 75 cents per share is below the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 76 cents.

Zacks Rank: SunTrust’s Zacks Rank #3 increases the predictive power of ESP. However, we also need to have a positive ESP to be confident of an earnings surprise call.

Stocks That Warrant a Look

Here are a few finance stocks that you may want to consider, as our model shows that these have the right combination of elements to post an earnings beat in their upcoming announcements.

The Blackstone Group L.P. BX has an Earnings ESP of +40.63% and a Zacks Rank #3. The company will announce results on Apr 21.

BB&T Corporation BBT has an Earnings ESP of +1.56% and a Zacks Rank #3. It is scheduled to report on Apr 21.

Ameriprise Financial, Inc. AMP has an Earnings ESP +0.45% and a Zacks Rank #3. It is scheduled to report results on Apr 27.

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