NAB 0.41% $27.02 national australia bank limited

Banks given hard time

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    Banks given hard time

    Bank share falls accelerated this week. The main factors included Asian investors selling, concerns about bad debts globally, and signs that the bulletproof earnings growth of the banks is coming to an end.

    Confirmation that National Australia Bank had pursued a big takeover of Abbey National (but failed) and the associated acquisition risks added to the jitters. It seems clear now that Abbey would, with the support of shareholders, emerge from its current slump without needing to call on a merger partner, whether that be Bank of Ireland or NAB.

    Abbey and its shareholders see no reason to accept a low-ball offer of, say, 750p, when the Lloyds TSB offer 18 months ago was some 70 per cent higher.

    Although the Abbey issue is relevant only to NAB, the big four banks all fell by similar percentages (6 to 7 per cent) in the past week. Perhaps that degree of selling isn't justified as Australian banks, unlike some of their US peers, aren't overly exposed to problem markets such as Argentina.

    Closer to home, Merrill Lynch's strategy team said that this week's low unemployment numbers augur well for low mortgage defaults, which was positive for the banking sector and the two bank stocks the team likes, NAB and Westpac
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