Are you wondering whether you read that right, that Lloyds Banking Group (LSE: LLOY) shares actually rose in September, by 8%?
Politics has been making mincemeat of our economic outlook. Parliament is back after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s prorogation was found to have been illegal by the Supreme Court, business leaders are increasingly frustrated at political aspirations apparently being prioritised over what’s best for British business, and Europe’s politicians are growing ever more annoyed at the UK’s Brexit dithering that’s gone on for three years now.
With the PM apparently still adamant that he won’t ask Brussels for another delay, despite losing his case in Parliament, just about everyone I listen to these days seems to think a no-deal Brexit is now almost certain, and that we’ll wake up on 1 November facing the prospect of a years-long recession.
That, as I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you, would not be good news for Lloyds. Since the banking crisis and its taxpayer bailout, Lloyds has turned its back on the high-risk international banking markets that went so badly wrong, and kept its sights firmly on the UK’s domestic banking sector.
I’m convinced that’s been a good move, but if the UK economy is now set to spend a few years as possibly the worst performing in the developed world, the timing might just stink.
Even as I write these words, news has emerged that UK house price growth, based on September figures, has “almost ground to a halt” in the words of the Nationwide building society. While I think that’s actually not such a bad thing, as the trend of working people being increasingly unable to afford to buy their own homes is a growing hardship, any slowing in mortgage borrowing would not be good for Lloyds.
And any forthcoming recession is surely going to hit the business loans segment of Lloyds’ operations too, so why have the bank’s shares picked up a little in such a tumultuous month?
It surely can’t be the end of the PPI claims period, which has admittedly removed one of the uncertainties surrounding Lloyds. Because it has, unfortunately, replaced that uncertainty with a certainty that’s turned out worse than most people’s gloomiest expectations.
The final PPI cost to Lloyds looks like being around £22bn, which has led to the bank suspending its share buyback programme and has raised fears that the dividend could come under pressure.
The pessimist in me wonders if September’s gain is just one of those random moves against the trend, and fears the Lloyds price might just turn around again and start heading further south in October. But then I look at the valuation metrics for Lloyds, and wonder whether investors have simply, finally, decided that all of the possible bad news is already built into the share price.
We are, after all, looking at forward price-to-earnings multiples of only around 7.3, which is about half the FTSE 100‘s long-term average. And the predicted dividend, it it materialises, would yield more than 6%.
There are short-term risks for Lloyds, for sure, but as a long-term shareholder, I’m still holding – and I’m happily pocketing my dividends.
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Alan Oscroft owns shares of Lloyds Banking Group. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Lloyds Banking Group. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.