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Card Issuers Shine After Stress Tests

 March 14, 2012 01:10 PM

The Fed released the results of Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR), or stress test, showing that both American Express Co. (NYSE:AXP) and Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF) sustained the worst case scenario with healthy capital ratios.

Stress Test, or Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR), is a process where financial institutions will be tested to determine whether they have sufficient capital to continue operations throughout times of economic and financial stress. Top-tier U.S. banks with total consolidated assets of $50 billion or more are required to submit annual capital plans for review.

[Related -Sector Detector: Bulls Run With A Temporary Green Flag From Congress]

The Fed had initially planned to report the results of stress tests on Thursday, but later decided to release them on Tuesday.

The Fed's stress test included 13 percent unemployment rate, a 50 percent stock market decline, a greater than 20 percent contraction in home prices, an 8 percent contraction in GDP, as well as contraction in European and Asian growth.

The Fed noted that 15 of 19 banks passed the test, with the group on average reporting a Tier 1 common ratio of 6.8 percent, a Tier 1 Capital Ratio of 8.4 percent, a Total Risk-Based Capital Ratio of 11.7 percent, and a Tier 1 leverage ratio of 5.1 percent.

[Related -American Express Company (AXP): Enterprise Growth Emerges In 2013 Helping AXP To Grow Market Share]

American Express emerged with some of the best results from the tests and was among the top 3 capitalized financial institutions post stress test results.

The company had a Tier 1 common ratio of 12.4 percent, a Tier 1 Capital Ratio of 12.4 percent, a Total Risk-Based Capital Ratio of 14.4 percent, and a Tier 1 leverage ratio of 10.1 percent, well above the group averages.

As a result, American Express increased its dividend by 2 cents to 20 cents and its repurchase authority to $4 billion. With the company repurchasing roughly $3 billion in 2011, it essentially increased repurchase authority $1 billion from last year. On the news, shares of American Express touched a new 52-week high of $56.28 during the intra-day trading. 

Capital One also emerged stronger from stress test, with a Tier 1 common ratio of 7.2 percent, a Tier 1 Capital Ratio of 8.2 percent, a Total Risk-Based Capital Ratio of 10.7 percent, and a Tier 1 leverage ratio of 6.2 percent, in line with or above the group averages.

However, Capital One has not announced any shareholder return measures despite clearing stress test.

"We expect Capital One does not take any immediate action in response to the stress tests as the recent HSBC/ING acquisitions are integrated," Jefferies analyst Daniel Furtado wrote in a note to clients.

Meanwhile, Discover Financial Services Corp. (NYSE:DFS) raised its repurchase authority to $2 billion from $1 billion, while maintaining the dividend at 10 cents, as the stress tests surfaced excess capital.

Since Discover Financial is under $50 billion limit, it was subjected to CapPR, the results of which were not publicized.

"Assuming the company consistently buys back shares over the following eight quarters (2QFY12 – 1QFY13), our model suggests ~7 mln shares to be repurchased per quarter, accreting 12 cents of EPS benefit," Susquehanna Financial analyst James Friedman wrote in a note to clients.



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