President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde on Dec. 2, 2019. Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

In contrast to the blowout returns of their U.S. counterparts last year, European banks delivered uninspired returns to investors.

What happened: U.S. banks like Citigroup and JPMorgan drove a 32% return for the S&P financial sector, slightly edging the S&P 500's 31% rise. Europe’s bank stocks index ended 2019 up 8%, but trailed the broader European Stoxx 600, which rose 23%.

  • Investors had lofty expectations to begin the year, WSJ notes (subscription), as the European Central Bank was expected to raise interest rates. But those quickly fizzled, and the ECB not only cut interest rates but restarted its TLTRO and quantitative easing stimulus programs.
  • Some lenders have started charging to hold big cash deposits to reduce the sting of negative interest rates.

Why it happened: The ECB's shift didn't help, but banks' troubles weren't all a result of monetary policy, experts say.

  • "It's also lack luster prospects for economic growth," Tom Essaye, president of Sevens Report Research, tells Axios. "The EU economy isn’t doing as well as the U.S. economy and as such, loan growth potential isn’t as good."
  • "In general loan demand is weak in Europe as are the economies in general," Joseph Trevisani, senior analyst at FXStreet, adds in an email. "Cheap funds are not enough if no one wants the money."

By the numbers: The eurozone grew at 0.2% in both the second and third quarters of 2019, and EU policymakers expect the bloc grew by just over 1% last year.

The bottom line: "Europe’s banks worked through the dreariness of 2019, in some cases admirably," WSJ's Rochelle Toplensky writes. "That is about the best investors can hope for in 2020 as well."

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Biden: The next president should decide on Ginsburg’s replacement

Joe Biden. Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Joe Biden is calling for the winner of November's presidential election to select Ruth Bader Ginsburg's replacement on the Supreme Court.

What he's saying: "[L]et me be clear: The voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider," Biden said. "This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election. That's the position the United States Senate must take today, and the election's only 46 days off.

Trump, McConnell to move fast to replace Ginsburg

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump will move within days to nominate his third Supreme Court justice in just three-plus short years — and shape the court for literally decades to come, top Republican sources tell Axios.

Driving the news: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are ready to move to confirm Trump's nominee before Election Day, just 46 days away, setting up one of the most consequential periods of our lifetimes, the sources say.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 30,393,591 — Total deaths: 950,344— Total recoveries: 20,679,272Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 6,722,699 — Total deaths: 198,484 — Total recoveries: 2,556,465 — Total tests: 92,163,649Map.
  3. Politics: In reversal, CDC again recommends coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people.
  4. Health: Massive USPS face mask operation called off The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine.
  5. Business: Unemployment drop-off reverses course 1 million mortgage-holders fall through safety netHow the pandemic has deepened Boeing's 737 MAX crunch.
  6. Education: At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable.