Weak retirement savings prompts a holiday week

Filed under: Banking & Finance |

You may not have known it, but last week was National Save for Retirement Week.

There weren’t any televised tickertape parades, and no one was likely given a paid day off work — the wages to be deposited directly into a 401(k), of course.

Congress passed the special resolution last week.

The move was in response to what has become an alarming fact for Americans, the increased costs of retirement and statistics showing that many workers aren’t saving for retirement.

It calls on the federal government, states and organizations to observe the week with appropriate programs and activities aimed at increasing retirement savings.

Critics of the resolution said that emphasizing retirement planning should be a year-round priority.

Alabama banks getting bigger, but is that better?

Last week, federal officials approved a merger of two Birmingham-based banks that will create the nation’s eighth largest bank.

The two banks will employ about 37,000 people and have $140 billion in assets and $100 billion in deposits.

Deposit Guaranty was bought by First American then converted to AmSouth, which soon will be Regions.

Some analysts say that could put off many customers, because too many changeovers create insecurity for customers — not to mention dealing with name changes every couple of years.

Nonetheless, officials approved the $27 billion AmSouth-Regions merger, which is expected to be complete in November, with a changeover phased in over 18 months.

Chinese bank raises $19M in IPO

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China raised a record $19 billion during its initial public offering.

The IPO generated more than $400 billion in global orders for its Hong Kong shares.

Analysts predicted a robust trading debut, and the deal’s overwhelming demand meant that many investors didn’t get nearly as many shares as they had sought.

An estimated 1 million people in Hong Kong applied for shares, breaking Bank of China’s local record of 954,000.

China is trying to whip its long-ailing banking industry into shape before the sector opens further to foreign competition.

Credit cards, consumers boost bank’s profits

The nation’s largest banks, Citigroup and Bank of America Corp., have posted higher third-quarter profits, helped by growth in credit cards and other consumer businesses.

Profit from continuing operations at New York-based Citigroup rose 6 percent to $5.3 billion, or $1.06 per share, from $4.99 billion, or 97 cents a year earlier.

Analysts estimated core profit at $1.01 per share.

Revenue was little changed at $21.42 billion, and fell short of forecasts of $22.16 billion, but card revenue increased 8 percent while expenses rose 5 percent.

Analysts were surprised at weakness in investment banking, where revenue from fixed income markets fell 16 percent.

Chief Executive Charles Prince is under pressure to re-energize the bank’s flagging U.S. consumer business and keep costs down.

U.S. consumer profit rose 23 percent to $2.24 billion, though revenue rose just 1 percent.

Net income for Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America rose to $5.42 billion, or $1.18 per share, from a restated $3.84 billion, or 95 cents a year earlier.

Excluding merger costs, profit totaled $5.59 billion, or $1.22 per share. Analysts had forecast $1.16.

The bank added 744,000 new checking accounts, and card services revenue rose 137 percent. Bank of America bought MBNA Corp. on Jan. 1 to become the largest U.S. credit card issuer.

Conscientious investors gaining strength

The socially conscious investment movement is gaining strength.

The Social Investment Forum released statistics last week that show more investors are including ethics in the investment mix.

Twenty-seven percent of shareholder resolution proposals about social and environmental issues that came to a vote between Jan. 1 and June 30 were supported by at least 15 percent of the shares voted.

While that figure may seem unimpressive, analysts say it exemplifies the growing attention socially conscious investors are garnering.

A year earlier, just 15.3 percent of shareholder resolution proposals about similar issues were supported by at least 15 percent of the shares voted, ISS stated.

Between 1973 and 2003, 3,495 shareholder proposals that raised social and environmental issues came to a vote at U.S. companies. Only 7 percent were supported by at least 15 percent of the shares voted.

Assets invested in one or more of the three main socially conscious investing strategies rose more than 258 percent to $2.29 trillion last year, from $639 billion in 1995. Assets in socially screened mutual funds and other pooled products rose to $179 billion in 2005, up 18.5 percent from 2003’s level.

The key shareholder issues gaining support this year have been political contributions, climate change, global labor standards, sustainability reporting, diversity in boards of directors, equal employment opportunities and human rights, according to the report.

Rob Larimer covers banking and finance for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.