The Bank Stocks I Wouldn’t Own

Imagine an economy with a property market in a hard landing and not only are real estate stocks collapsing, but also banking stocks are showing signs of trouble. That’s exactly what’s happening in Spain today. And it could happen here, too.

While I’ve read many financing columns talk about the subprime market and how only subprime lender stocks are being hit, let’s not brush this off too easily. If the U.S. housing market continues to fall apart, like I predict it will, the stock prices of major American banks that lend money to consumers to buy homes will come under pressure — these are the bank stocks I wouldn’t own.

Spain is the world’s eighth largest economy. The country boasts one of the highest rates of home ownership in the world with over 80% of its population owning their homes. (U.S. home ownership is about 60%). But, despite the high percentage of home ownership in Spain, real estate stocks, builder stocks, and bank stocks are getting hit hard on the country’s main stock exchange, as the building boom that lasted for years is coming to a halt.

I believe the U.S. will soon face a similar situation — only our property market will come in for a harder landing than Spain’s has because of the greater amount of speculation I believe was built into the American property market during our property boom. In the American case, I predict consumer goods stocks will also come under pressure, as the softening U.S. housing market puts pressure on consumers to reduce their spending. Long gone are the “feel good days” for overleveraged Americans.

NEWSFLASH — Sales of existing homes in the U.S. fell 8.4% in March from February, representing the sharpest drop in 18 years, according to the National Association of Realtors. The median price of a home sold in March edged down for the eighth consecutive month. I’ve often warned my readers about the risks of the U.S. housing market, and I continue to believe that the worst of times for this sector still lie ahead.