Skip to main content

Fans of Canadian bank stocks will appreciate this number: $45.3-billion.

That’s the total profit generated by the Big Six banks in fiscal 2018 (which ended Oct. 31), and the gargantuan number reinforces why the banks have been delivering stellar gains and rising dividends over the long term.

Buying all six bank stocks and holding on during rallies and downturns makes a lot of sense. But it’s also worth taking a closer look at their individual performances to gain an understanding of which bank is leading the way. Here are a number of ways to slice and dice their financial results.

Biggest profit gain, 2018: TD

The Big Six banks’ fourth-quarter results can be summarized like this: Profits went up by an average of 13 per cent year-over-year, and share prices went down.

Toronto-Dominion Bank is the quarterly winner, in terms of its year-over-year adjusted profit (which ignores some one-time items): TD reported a gain of 20 per cent, which analysts described as solid, even as they expressed some caution over the bank’s rising expenses. Bank of Montreal was a close second, with 19-per-cent growth, followed by Royal Bank of Canada at 16 per cent.

For the full fiscal year, TD is also the profit powerhouse. Its 2018 adjusted profit, on a per-share basis, increased 16.8 per cent from 2017.

Not so keen on these adjustments? If you look at net earnings, which can move with taxes, divestitures and acquisitions, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce wins with a gain of 11.4 per cent.

Best “beat” rate, 2018: CIBC

During earnings season, stocks can be judged by how they live up to analysts’ expectations. In their fourth quarter, Big Six banks delivered adjusted earnings that were remarkably close to expectations: They surpassed the consensus by 1 per cent, on average.

RBC had the biggest beat rate, at 5.7 per cent. Over the full year, though, RBC was in the middle of the pack, with an average beat rate of 3.3 per cent over four quarters. TD did better, with an average beat rate of 4.6 per cent. CIBC tops them all with an average beat rate of 5.4 per cent.

Best dividend growth, 2018: TD

If you look strictly at indicated dividend yields, then CIBC is the winner here: Its 5.1 per cent yield – based on its latest distribution and helped by a declining share price and rising quarterly payout – is the best of the bunch.

However, many longer-term investors appreciate banks that raise their quarterly payouts at a faster pace. Looked at from this perspective, Toronto-Dominion Bank is the winner. TD raised its payout by a dazzling 11.7 per cent in fiscal 2018 – well more than CIBC’s 4.6-per-cent dividend hike for the full year and the 7.9 per cent average among the Big Six banks.

This may explain why TD’s dividend yield is the lowest of the group: At just 3.85 per cent, the yield implies expectations for brisk growth.

Highest CET1 ratio: TD

This sounds a bit wonkish, but bear with us. The Common Equity Tier 1 ratio is a measure of capital that is watched by regulators to ensure that a bank can withstand a downturn. A higher ratio means that a bank has a bigger buffer, and the bank can lower it by buying back shares or making deals when times are good.

TD is the winner here, with a CET1 ratio of 12 per cent. That’s not only the highest among the Big Six; it also represents the biggest year-over-year gain, at 1.3 percentage points. There is a downside here: A high ratio means that more capital is sidelined rather than making profit – but a bit of fat might be just the thing if the market is worried about the economy.

Best stock performance: TD

Bank stocks have been struggling this year, and many observers are puzzled. Maybe, part of the problem is that the overall stock market has turned volatile. Then there’s also rising borrowing costs, indebted consumers, tumbling oil prices and concerns about Canada’s housing market.

The Big Six stocks are down an average of 9.4 per cent since the start of January, not including dividends. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has fared the worst, falling 13.9 per cent. Toronto-Dominion Bank has performed best, but its decline of 5.8 per cent is not going to inspire celebrations.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct

Tickers mentioned in this story