Analyst Has 5 Banks to Buy as Investors Sell the Earnings

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After a red-hot year, even the top banks have found it hard to keep the momentum going recently as investors have been selling the news. Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) was tagged to the tune of almost 4% last week as it released earnings that didn’t match the lofty Wall Street expectations. The bank cited higher-than-expected provisions, but many feel that the 10% rally prior to earnings was the real cause.

A recent Jefferies research report acknowledges the run-up in the banks has been fueled by possible deregulation, fiscal policy hopes and the rise in bond yields. While the fundamentals remain solid, even as loan growth slows, credit is improving.

Jefferies remains positive on five top large cap banks, all of which are rated Buy. They caution that while true improvement for the sector may have to wait until 2019, the Buy-rated companies still make good sense now.

Bank of America

This company posted solid third-quarter results. Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) is a ubiquitous presence in the United States, providing various banking and financial products and services for individual consumers, small and middle market businesses, institutional investors, corporations and governments in the United States and internationally. It operates some 5,100 banking centers, 16,300 ATMs, call centers, online and a mobile banking platform.

The company reported third-quarter results last Friday that beat Wall Street expectations, despite a slowdown in its fixed-income trading business.

Bank of America investors receive a 1.83% dividend. The Jefferies price target for the stock is $30, and the Wall Street consensus target is $27.71. The shares traded early Tuesday at $26.20.

KeyCorp

This is one of the top valuation plays at Jefferies. KeyCorp (NYSE: KEY) operates as the bank holding company for KeyBank National Association, which provides deposit, lending, cash management and investment services to individuals, small and medium-sized businesses.

The company also provides a broad range of sophisticated corporate and investment banking products, such as merger and acquisition advice, public and private debt and equity, syndications and derivatives to middle market companies in selected industries throughout the United States under the KeyBanc Capital Markets banner.

The analysts like the larger regional banks, noting that valuations look very reasonable and cost saving plans are helping to make forward estimates look very achievable. With overall credit remaining solid, earnings and loan, deposit and fee growth all are positive metrics for the bank.

Investors are paid a 2.06% dividend. The $22 Jefferies price target compares with the consensus target of $20.75. The shares were last seen trading at $18.40.

Comerica

This is a smaller large cap bank that is often off the Wall Street radar, but it may provide a very compelling investment idea. Comerica Inc. (NYSE: CMA) is a financial services company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and strategically aligned by three business segments: business bank, retail bank and wealth management. It operates branches in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Texas, as well as in Canada and Mexico.

Top analysts are confident the company can deliver on its efficiency initiatives and is trying hard to maximize shareholder return. While some have lowered the firm’s net interest income estimates, that should be offset by lower provisions for loss. A rise in interest rates would certainly be a tailwind.

Shareholders are paid a 1.59% dividend. Jefferies has set its price objective at $89. Consensus expectations are posted at $77.82. The shares traded at $75.90.

SunTrust Banks

This top regional has made big strides in traditional banking and with its broker-dealer side. SunTrust Banks Inc. (NYSE: STI) is an Atlanta-based banking organization with total assets of around $205 billion, and it is the eighth largest bank in the United States by deposits and branches.

Established in 1985, when Trust Company of Georgia merged with Florida’s SunBank, SunTrust offers a wide variety of financial products ranging from deposit and credit services to capital markets and investment management to a broad range of institutional and retail clients.

The company has dramatically expanded the SunTrust Robinson Humphrey broker dealer business, and it is growing its institutional and capital markets segment at a breakneck pace.

Shareholders receive a 2.68% dividend. Jefferies has a $69 price objective, and the consensus target is $63.18. The stock traded Tuesday at $59.70.

Zions Bancorp

This is another top regional bank that the Jefferies team likes now, and it is a top play in the western United States. Zions Bancorporation (NASDAQ: ZION) offers community banking services, such as small and medium-sized business and corporate banking; commercial and residential development, construction and term lending; retail banking; treasury cash management and related products and services; and residential mortgage servicing and lending.

The company also provides trust and wealth management services; capital markets services, including municipal finance advisory and underwriting; and investment services. And it offers personal banking services to individuals, including home mortgages, bank cards, other installment loans, home equity lines of credit, checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit of various types and maturities, safe deposit facilities, direct deposits and Internet and mobile banking services.

Shareholders are paid a 1.03% dividend. The Jefferies price objective is $54. The consensus target is much at $50.44, and shares traded Tuesday morning at $46.55.

Five top banks that are still offering investors upside potential after an extremely large run in the sector. It may make sense to buy partial positions and see how the rest of the third-quarter results come in.