Friday, May 30, 2008

Bank earnings recap

Another earnings season for Canadian banks has come and gone, and the credit crisis picture doesn't appear to be getting any clearer.

Results were a bit of a mixed bag. Scotia, Royal, BMO, TD and National Bank all saw their profits dip a little, while CIBC squatted down and unloaded yet another $1-billion loss for the quarter. The bank that I own, BMO, didn't exactly knock my socks off, but based on analyst and shareholder reaction, the news was not quite as bad as it could have been (or indeed has been in recent quarters) so I took their numbers as muted good news.

All in all, though, we're not out of the woods yet. When a bank like Royal, which has so far managed to keep its hands pretty clean in the subprime mess, starts announcing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of writedowns, it's clear this isn't over.

Banks are as good a proxy for the economy as a whole as anything, so today's news that the Canadian economy actually contracted during the first quarter shouldn't be much of a surprise.

I have no idea how all of these credit problems are going to play out, but it's clear they haven't worked their way through the system yet.

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