UK banks' share prices set new post-referendum highs

 
Jake Cordell
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Banks have had a testing time since the EU referendum
Banks have had a testing time since the EU referendum (Source: Getty)

Shares in UK banks are standing at a post-referendum high after a string of encouraging economic data has restored confidence in the health of the sector.

Lenders with big domestic footprints were hit hard in the days after the 23 June referendum. Share prices fell by as much 40 per cent. Both Barclays and RBS suffered the ignominious fate of having trading suspending by the London Stock Exchange's circuit breakers.

Since then, however, as the UK economy has avoided being tipped into freefall, confidence has returned and investors have flooded back.

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All four of the FTSE 100-listed banks - Barclays, RBS, HSBC and Lloyds - are at their highest level since the post-vote route. The sector has been on a mini-rally over the summer, with shares in Barclays and Lloyds both up by more than 10 per cent so far in August.

The Eurostoxx banking index, which tracks the share prices of the 30 largest banks in the Eurozone, is also at a post-vote high, though still down by 30 per cent on the year.

Ian Gordon, banking analyst at Investec, said the correction which has taken place since the end of June is a recognition that expectations of how the banks would hold up "were cut indiscriminately and without proper justification" in frantic post-vote trading.

He added the raft of stimulus measures unleashed by the Bank of England earlier this month will not hit banks in a "uniform" manner.

"We are seeing clear divergence where small and challenger banks with small market shares and a greater focus on remortgage flows are generally seeing sustained, or even improving, volumes, wheres the larger banks are seeing some slowdown."

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In a report out today, ratings agency Standard and Poor's (S&P) argued the sector was in a "holding pattern as the post-Brexit landscape takes shape". It said the outlook for banks will "evolve slowly" and be hostage to the back-and-forth of negotiations between the UK and the EU over any future trading relationship.

Assessing the prospects for banks over the coming months, Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, also struck a note of caution, stating: "Over such a short period there's really no telling how the sector will perform, though we do know there's probably some ugly conduct costs heading for RBS from the US.

"Longer term the banks are in better shape than they were in the run up to the financial crisis, but much will depend on the economy. Banks should now be well-capitalised enough to weather a downturn, but if that materialises that can still be expected to take a toll on earnings and share prices."

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