It sure doesn’t take much to turn the tide these days, especially when it comes to interest rates. As little as six weeks ago, Wall Street was handicapping basically a zero chance that the Federal Reserve would be raising rates. After the Fed minutes were released this week, the market reversed, and now it looks like a June increase in the federal funds rate is clearly on the table.
One sector that will benefit from an increase in rates is the financials, which have lagged the overall market this year. While some favor the regional banks as a way to play the rate increase, for many investors concerned about market volatility, the best way is to go with the large cap blue chips. We screened the Merrill Lynch research database and found four companies rated Buy that make sense now.
This top bank is still down over 20% from highs that were posted last summer. Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. It provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services and wealth management.
Trading at a very cheap 9.7 times estimated 2016 earnings, this company looks very reasonable in what is becoming a pricey stock market. While the Merrill Lynch team did lower estimates for the bank back in April, citing a drop off in investment banking revenue, the company reported solid first-quarter earnings and seems to have a good hold on expenses. A continued stock buyback program is also a positive.
Citigroup investors are paid a tiny 0.45% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $59, and the Thomson/First Call consensus target is $56.42. Shares closed most recently at $45.06.