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Singapore banks’ earnings Q1 2022 round-up

Overall, all three banks saw a 9-10% fall in net profits year-on-year but high-base effect needs to be taken into account.

Overview

This morning's key highlight was the release of the Singapore banks earnings (OCBC, UOB, DBS). Overall, all three banks saw a 9-10% fall in net profits year-on-year but high-base effect needs to be taken into account. Compared to market expectations, DBS and OCBC have delivered an earnings beat whereas UOB missed expectations.

1. Interest income to see tailwinds ahead

There are pockets of optimism, where net interest income continues to show positive momentum. Net interest margins have ticked slightly upwards across the banks, reflecting some improved loan yields as the tighter policy ahead provide room for further upward revision towards its pre-Covid level of 1.7%-1.8%. Current net interest margin is hovering around 1.46%-1.58%, with signs of bottoming-out. Singapore may follow the lead from the Fed’s tightening pace, which is expected to pick up over the coming months. Loan growth also maintained its pace with a high single-digit year-on-year increase, reflecting improved lending momentum despite Covid-19 challenges in Q1.

2. Loan loss provisions reflect economic resilience

Loan loss provisions remained largely steady with the banks’ prudent approach over the previous quarters. With the huge build-up in loan losses provision for OCBC in Q4 2021, paring down on further provisions in Q1 2022 may provide some relief that economic risks have been factored in for now, which also contributed to its earnings outperformance. Overall loan portfolio also stayed resilient, with non-performing loans maintaining at healthy levels of between 1.3%-1.6%.

3. Non-interest income highlights some risks but positive catalysts remain on watch

The headwinds this time round may come from the non-interest income, where geopolitical developments and the higher-inflation, slower growth environment translate to a double-digit fall. All three banks saw softer net fee income from a year ago, with DBS and UOB delivering a 6-7% decrease year-on-year while OCBC saw a 10% fall. The lower year-on-year comparison for trading income did not aid to provide any relief as well. That said, a key catalyst on watch will be the further push in economic reopening and easing travel borders, which may drive pent-up consumer spending on credit and debit cards, along with improving economic activities across the region. There has also been a positive tone coming from DBS as it signalled that China’s lockdown has no material impact.

4. Dividends/Fund flow

Based on current dividend projection, dividend yield for all three local banks ranges from 4%-4.5% at the time of writing. OCBC may deliver the highest yield at 4.5%, followed by DBS at 4.2% and UOB at 4%. The SGX fund flow data over the previous week has shown net institutional outflows from the financial sector over the past two months before the results release. The outflows may come on the back of newly-added risks from geopolitical conflict and China’s virus lockdowns, which may drive some paring of positions from institutional investors in light of increased uncertainty.

5. Straits Times Index (STI) technicals

Coming after the banks’ result release, the STI is once again retesting the upper range of a consolidation zone at the 3,360 level. This is from the four-hour chart, where some resistance has capped the index on at least four occasions this month. One may potentially look out for any upward break to suggest a longer-term shift in sentiments to the upside.

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