by Scott Martin
After watching banks throughout the BRIC group roll under serious selling pressure, sometimes it's nice to remember that there is finance stock in the emerging world that can still deliver blockbuster performance. But you might have to travel a little farther afield than previously to find them.
By now, most of my regular readers should be familiar with Bancolombia (CIB), a leading force in the ongoing development of Colombia's long-neglected economy and a primary factor in the Colombia ETF GXG and its bull run over the last few years.
But CIB has cratered in the last few weeks and is now up just 3% year to date. The chart looks dangerously vulnerable to the downside. Let's move on. Follow the Andes all the way back down to Chile, and the big banks don't look too much better. Both Banco de Chile (BCH) and Corpbanca (BCA) were riding high until the recent sell-off wiped out their accumulated gains.
Skip the banks, go with a somewhat more obscure segment of the Chilean financial sector and you'll find the unique Administradora de Fondos de Pensiones (PVD) is up 20% year to date -- and unlike just about everything else in the sector, has held onto its upward trend in recent weeks. Think of PVD as a nationalized retirement fund, one of three major institutions of its type in Chile. As the roughly 6 million workers in the country contribute to their pension accounts, the money goes straight into PVD's portfolio and the company collects the asset management fees.
It's one of the most secure franchises in the world as far as publicly traded financial institutions go -- and it's deeply profitable, generating $8 a share in profits over the last year.
The downside is that the few analysts who cover PVD expect its near-term growth to be flat at best. This is a utility business throwing off a current yield of around 3.80%, significantly above what previous market darlings like CIB pay out.
And as yet, PVD has yet to be bid up to quite the levels where CIB and other hot stocks still trade. At a P/E under 9 compared to CIB's battered-but-still-rich 12.65, the rally here could still have legs. The chart is the best argument of all. PVD has lost ground along with everything else in the group, but unlike stocks like CIB, it's still got plenty of support beneath it. At its worst, PVD barely touched near-term support, leaving the longer-term lines intact far below. CIB, on the other hand, plunged all the way to the 200-day line before regaining its balance.
Sad to say, Brazilian banks like Itau Unibanco (ITUB) fumbled even that technical support level and are now in some scary territory indeed.
Either way, PVD is now the sector king. All hail!