Why JPMorgan Shares Could Catch Up and Outperform the Dow and S&P

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JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) and the financials have still lagged the overall market performance so far in 2017. The Dow was up almost 9% and the S&P 500 was up about 9.5%, but JPMorgan shares, even with a dividend included in a total return, was up only about 2% so far in 2017. That is about to change, if Merrill Lynch’s Erika Najarian is right.

After a fresh investor meeting with CEO and Chairman Jamie Dimon, Merrill Lynch is firmly reiterating its Buy rating with a $99 price objective.

The CEO meeting takeaway is that the best can get even better. Najarian said that the firm’s view is confident that JPMorgan’s stock is mispricing the rate of change in profitability that can occur in the next few years.

The firm’s return on tangible common equity is 15%, and that is before tax reform or regulatory relief. That would imply a gain of 170 basis points from the current levels. Merrill Lynch believes that this target can be achieved by 2019 at the latest.

For another boost, Najarian sees deregulation driving that return on tangible common equity to 17% by 2020. Another positive is that JPMorgan’s dividend payout could normalize at a rate of 35% to 40% in the 2018 CCAR testing. If that occurs, it would imply a dividend yield of 3.1% to 3.6%.

Najarian feels that the market is underestimating the interest rate sensitivity of JPMorgan. The report said:

Since January, JPM consensus estimates to 2018 are up 5%. The primary driver? Higher spread revenue assumptions. We think this shows how under-rated JPM’s sensitivity is to higher rates, mostly because we do not think the market appreciates JPM’s outsized growth in sticky consumer deposits. Mr. Dimon pointed out that the assumptions JPM uses on its net interest income simulation (>50% beta) are conservative.

One key issue to consider is whether a stock is already owned by every investor or whether it is under-owned. Merrill Lynch sees JPMorgan as not particularly expensive nor as over-owned by the investing community. While it is the best owned bank stock among active managers, the bank’s shares are not over-owned when it comes to the top-owned stocks in the S&P 500. The report said:

Active US managers are 136% overweight the top 25 best-owned stocks in the S&P. Within the S&P 500, JPM is the 116th-best owned. We think this is important to point out as incremental ownership of JPM is likely to not just come from investors rotating out of bank stocks, but from investors looking to boost exposure to value stocks, like financials.

All in all, Merrill Lynch feels that JPMorgan continues to signal value for long-term investors. With superior revenue generation and a value of 12.3 times 2017 expected earnings per share, Merrill Lynch sees JPMorgan as one of the least expensive stocks that the firm covers. It was also shown to have 14% earnings growth power and a strong return on tangible equity ahead, plus a 2.4% dividend yield.

Shares of JPMorgan were last seen trading down 0.3% at $87.74 Tuesday morning. Its 52-week range is $57.05 to $93.98.

As far as Merrill Lynch’s $99 price objective, the consensus analyst target from Thomson Reuters is at $94.04. The highest analyst price target on Wall Street is actually up at $106.