If you read my work, you know that I don’t like Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) stock. BAC stock was hyped up after Donald Trump became President. Looser regulation and higher rates were supposed to make the money making environment a lot easier for financial institutions. But that hasn’t happened.
Tight financial regulations have yet to be scrapped in full, and Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen adamantly opposes Trump’s plan to lift those financial regulations. Meanwhile, the 10-Year Treasury yield, which spiked to above 2.6% earlier this year on hopes that inflation would finally come into the US economy, is now on the verge of slipping below 2% for the first time in the Trump era.
And where is BAC stock amid all this?
Well, before Trump, BAC was a $17 stock trading at 0.7-times book value and 12-times trailing earnings.
Today, BAC is a $23 stock trading above 0.9-times book value and at nearly 14-times trailing earnings.
Clearly, expectations for looser regulations and higher rates in the future are still priced into BAC stock.
And that’s irrational. The looser regulations catalyst is a wild-card. Meanwhile, the heightened pace of tech innovation means that interest rates will be stuck at this abnormally low level for a long, long time.
Technology Is The Enemy Of Higher Rates
Inflation continues to fail to creep into this economy.
At the beginning of the year, the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers rose 2.5% year-over-year. But the pace of CPI growth has slowed to below 2% for the past 3 months. CPI growth came in at just 1.7% in July, despite the unemployment rate hovering near a 16-year low.
Usually, a tight labor situation spills into inflation growth.
But not this time. Unemployment is at record lows, but wage growth remains sluggish. Consequently, inflation hasn’t really picked up all that much.
So what’s going on?
Well, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) is keeping prices low across the board. The retail giant’s ability to run on razor thin margins has caused a ripple effect in price tags across America. In order to compete with Amazon’s exceptionally low prices, every retailer is cutting prices. Go to your local mall. Chances are most of the retailers are running a sale.
Go back next week. Chances are you will see the same sale signs.
And the week after that, too.
It’s a persistently promotional retail backdrop spearheaded by Amazon. It’s keeping consumer prices down and more or less killing inflation for the time being.
Longer-term, these prices will eventually find a bottom and consumer prices will begin to tick up again. But at that point, Amazon won’t be the only thing threatening inflation.
Big swaths of the job market are at serious risk to job-replacing technologies. As automation and artificial intelligence technologies come to the forefront, jobs will be lost in mass.
Think of automated driving cars and what happens to all of Uber’s drivers. Think of burger-flipping robots and what happens to all of the employees at McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD). Also think of automated check-out registers and what happens to people who work at stores like Macy’s Inc (NYSE:M).
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this current 16-year low unemployment rate is a temporary thing. This economy is on track for record high unemployment soon.
Overall, lower for longer may actually underplay the current outlook for interest rates. I think its more appropriate to say lower for A LOT longer.
Bottom Line on BAC Stock
None of this is good news for Bank of America stock. Low rates make it hard for the company to make money. Net interest income will remain depressed, and without growth from that critical money source, BAC stock looks terribly overvalued.
BAC should trade at the levels it was trading at prior to Trump. That means the price-to-book multiple should compress by about 20% and the price-to-earnings multiple should come down some 15%.
Those aren’t small corrections in what has been a largely flat stock so far this year.
So, as I’ve said before, steer clear of BAC stock while it remains valued as if interest rates are going up some time soon.
They aren’t. And they won’t for some time.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long AMZN.