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The financial sector has been underperforming for many earnings seasons now, but if you’re interested in possible comeback ideas, we ran a screen with that idea in mind. We screened the financial sector for stocks seeing the most significant net institutional purchases over the current quarter, expressed as a percent of share float. Institutional investors like hedge fund managers and mutual fund managers expect these companies to outperform.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the top six stocks mentioned below. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.‬

We also created a price-weighted index of the stocks mentioned below, and monitored the performance of the list relative to the S&P 500 index over the last month. (To access a complete analysis of this list's recent performance, click here.)

Do you agree with the smart money on these companies? Use this list as a starting point for your own analysis.

List sorted by net institutional purchases as a percent of share float.

1. Avalonbay Communities Inc. (NYSE:AVB): Engages in the development, redevelopment, acquisition, ownership, and operation of multifamily communities in the United States. Market cap of $11.70B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 7.9M, which is 8.38% of the company's 94.24M share float. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 10.67% (equivalent to 10. days of average volume). The stock has gained 13.06% over the last year.

2. Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF): Operates as the bank holding company for the Capital One Bank, National Association and Capital One, National Association, which provide various financial products and services in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Market cap of $20.75B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 32.5M, which is 7.19% of the company's 451.81M share float. The stock has gained 7.4% over the last year.

3. HCP, Inc. (NYSE:HCP): An independent hybrid real estate investment trust. Market cap of $15.61B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 24.0M, which is 5.92% of the company's 405.14M share float. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 5.44% (equivalent to 5.78 days of average volume). The stock has gained 23.93% over the last year.

4. Annaly Capital Management, Inc. (NYSE:NLY): Engages in the ownership, management, and financing of a portfolio of investment securities. Market cap of $15.68B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 42.5M, which is 4.40% of the company's 965.48M share float. The stock has gained 2.15% over the last year.

5. Boston Properties Inc. (NYSE:BXP): A real estate investment trust, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the ownership and development of office properties. Market cap of $13.78B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 5.7M, which is 3.92% of the company's 145.34M share float. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 7.98% (equivalent to 8.26 days of average volume). The stock has gained 13.47% over the last year.

6. Public Storage (NYSE:PSA): Operates as a real estate investment trust. Market cap of $21.76B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 5.5M, which is 3.87% of the company's 142.09M share float. The stock has gained 32.09% over the last year.

7. Ventas, Inc. (NYSE:VTR): Engages in investment, management, financing, and leasing of properties in the healthcare industry. Market cap of $14.97B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 9.9M, which is 3.46% of the company's 285.99M share float. The stock has gained 7.59% over the last year.

8. Simon Property Group Inc. (NYSE:SPG): Engages in investment, ownership, and management of properties. Market cap of $35.77B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 9.1M, which is 3.17% of the company's 286.89M share float. The stock has gained 26.63% over the last year.

9. Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE:VNO): A privately owned real estate investment trust. Market cap of $13.35B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 5.3M, which is 3.16% of the company's 167.98M share float. The stock has lost 9.02% over the last year.

10. Prologis, Inc. (NYSE:PLD): An independent equity real estate investment trust. Market cap of $12.63B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 14.3M, which is 3.15% of the company's 453.99M share float. The stock has lost 10.23% over the last year.

11. General Growth Properties Inc. (NYSE:GGP): Operates as a real estate investment trust in the United States. Market cap of $13.09B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 24.3M, which is 3.06% of the company's 795.32M share float. The stock has lost 6.17% over the last year.

12. The Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX): Provides alternative asset management and financial advisory services worldwide. Market cap of $15.75B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 10.6M, which is 2.94% of the company's 360.33M share float. This is a risky stock that is significantly more volatile than the overall market (beta = 2.31). It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 5.4% over the last week.

Institutional data sourced from Fidelity; all other data sourced from Finviz.

Source: 12 Financials The Smart Money Is Buying Up