Federal Reserve comments yesterday confirmed the direction of interest rates should be higher in the months ahead.
This should bolster both banks and insurers as net margins and investment returns increase.
There are several reasons why I believe Bank of America is the best of the four major banks to own at current levels.
There has been a lot of commentary today about Janet Yellen's "rookie mistake" that caused markets to sell off yesterday both here and in bourses overseas.
Emerging markets continue to react negatively today even as our market is slightly up in midday trading. One thing I think is cleared from yesterday's Federal Reserve commentary is the direction of long term interest rates is up over the medium term even as they keep short term interest rates near zero.
This should be a positive for both banks whose net interest margins will improve and for insurers who should generate higher returns from their conservative investment portfolios.
Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) continues to be my favorite play of the four major banks in this country for a variety of reasons.
#1 Earnings Growth:
According to the current consensus, earnings for Bank of America are projected to grow from 90 cents a share in FY2013 to over $1.60 a share in FY2015. This is a far steeper earnings trajectory than at Citigroup (NYSE:C), JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM) or Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC).
#2 Housing Market:
Bank of America was the only major bank to gain market share in the mortgage origination market in 2013. As housing values continue to improve and hopefully economic growth accelerates over the 2% GDP increases we have seen in the past five years, the bank should continue to benefit.
#3 Stress Tests
The Federal Reserve stress test results should be released by the end of this quarter. I expect all major banks to easily past these tests. I also expect Bank of America to request and receive approval to significantly increase its dividend payout for the first time since the financial crisis. This should be a positive catalyst for the shares when this occurs.
#4 No emerging market exposure
With the emerging markets under great pressure as the Federal Reserve starts to ease back on the liquidity it has provided the market over the past five years, it is nice to know Bank of America has next to no exposure overseas. This contrasts with Citicorp which has a large percentage of revenue from overseas and has recently been rocked by a fraud scandal in Mexico.
# 5 No longer a regulatory piñata
The stock of Bank of America got knocked down to just over $5 a share in 2011 when it was squarely in the crosshairs of state and federal regulators mainly due to its ill-timed purchase of Countrywide. It survived that focus and is mostly done with its regulatory/litigation gauntlet. JP Morgan seems to have picked up the regulators' favorite "Whipping Boy" designation.
BAC goes for just over book value and around 10.5x expected FY2015's EPS. I think earnings projections go up from here as net interest margins improve and the housing recovery continues. Despite tripling from its 2011's lows, the stock is still far below its post crisis levels and I expect to continue to move up at a nice pace in the coming years.
Disclosure: I am long BAC. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.