bank stocks to buy now
Increasing long-term interest rates are causing investors fear in the marketplace and giving them less confidence in which stocks to buy lately.
But rising interest rates may actually benefit the banking sector, and investors, in turn, can benefit if they identify the best bank stocks to buy.
Two Bank Stocks to Buy Now Before Activist Investors Goose Share Prices
One of the most exciting long-term opportunities right now for stocks to buy involves the smaller regional and community banks - which is why activist investors have flocked to the industry this year.
These banks were hit hard during the credit crisis and economic slowdown of the past five years and have been slow to recover. Earnings growth has been sluggish - even though credit conditions have improved and real estate markets show signs of stabilizing.
- Three Stocks to Buy Now
Stocks to Buy Now, or Just Another Fad?
The company this week had to recall yoga pants made with fabric known as Luon because it was overly transparent - meaning Lululemon customers were walking around with see-through pants.
The products make up about 17% of all "bottoms' sold by the company. According to The New York Times, the recall is expected to account for about $60 million in lost sales.
Lululemon investors saw the stock take a 10% hit this week after the pants debacle.
And now, with some of its most popular products off shelves, the company has opened up the window for another "trendy" fitness chain to play to pantsless consumers.
That's one of the dangers of investing in a fad stock - it's not going to be popular forever.
And even though Lululemon's shares have soared more than 340% in five years - beating returns of both Apple and Google - its success isn't based on solid company fundamentals, but on trends and investor hype.
Here are a couple other "fad" stocks that might not be able to deliver for investors on consumer enthusiasm alone.
Stocks to Buy Now Ahead of Major Bank Industry Takeovers
There has been a lot of discussion among investors over the past few years about whether the banking industry offers any quality stocks to buy now.
The big banks brought the economy to its knees in 2008 and had to be bailed out by the federal government with taxpayer dollars. The disastrous decisions at large banks spilled over to the smaller banks and caused severe economic distress for many of them.
Many banks were forced to close with 140 banks failing in 2009 and another 157 in 2011.
Although the numbers have tapered off some we still saw more than 50 banks fail last year as a result of residual problems from the housing boom and ensuing credit crisis. This type of carnage is reflected in the price of many small banks, which are just now starting to see their balance sheets and stock price show signs of improvement.
We now face an environment much like the aftermath of the savings & loan debacle in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
You see, during the economic boom from 2001 to 2007 many new banks opened across the United Sates to take advantage of the cheap money from the Fed and the high demand for housing and home equity loans.
Now in the aftermath of the implosion of housing prices, we find ourselves with too many banks even after all the failures. We have seen some bank mergers in 2012 but this is just the start of what will be a massive wave of bank and thrift consolidation activity.
While we have seen some economic recovery, we continue to operate in a better but not good economy. Loan demand is still fairly tepid and is well below pre-crisis levels. It is difficult for many banks to gain market share and maintain profitability.
As we enter 2013 banks face new regulation and compliance costs that may further crimp operating profits. Smaller banks in particular are experiencing high levels of frustration at their inability to remain profitable and grow their franchise. Shareholders are unhappy after several years of poor share-price performance and want to see a return on their investment.
For many the best path is going to seek a suitor and sell out to a larger competitor.
For investors this creates an enormous opportunity for long-term profits, if you know the right stocks to buy now.
The Banks Win, Again
Finally, some well-deserved help for beleaguered monster banks is on its way.
Make that, well on its way.
Those poor big banks accidently and inadvertently got caught up making so many easy loans to deserving, hard-up borrowers, who wanted to buy overpriced dream homes, and a few million other folks who deserved two homes and McMansions to keep up with the Joneses (you know the Joneses... most of them were "friends of Angelo").
But now, at last, the banks are making profits again.
After suffering the indignity of insolvency and near collapse for all their hard work, the New Samaritans are still being haunted by their generosity, as regulators hound them into settlement submission, merely for doing God's work.
So, what's the good news?
The second quarter may be a good one for the three biggest servicer banks, namely Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and - the little bank that could, run by that kid named Jamie - JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM).
What's strange is that these do-gooders are being helped by some of the same government folks who are still attacking them in public venues where voters hang their hats.
What's not strange is that tons of underwater homebuyers, who are drowning in debt on dwellings whose prices have fallen 30% to 40%, aren't blaming banks and are running to their rescue.
Okay, maybe they're not running, maybe it's more that they're being corralled, like sheep. But either way, they are helping banks fatten their profits pools (make that bonus pools) again.
They're repaying the banks' favor of giving them loans in the first place by coming (more like being forced) back to the banks to get refinanced on better terms.
But they're not doing it on their own. The banks have a partner helping to round up their old customers and corral them into the breeding profits barn.
That Partner is HARP 2.0The original Home Affordable Refinance Program, which was launched in April 2009, failed miserably (because there was nothing in it for banks). But the powers that be (the banks... DUH) harped for a new HARP, and they got it last November.
The new program is known as HARP 2.0 (that's because it's twice as profitable for the big banks that sunk the economy and the world under Housing Bubblemania 1.0).
Okay, enough sarcasm; let me slice and dice this succinctly for you.
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It's Time to Bail on Bank Stocks
There was a time when bank stocks actually looked like good investments. And many, having racked up big gains over the past two years, proved to be just that.
But sadly, U.S. banks no longer offer the value and profit-making potential they did immediately following the financial collapse. In fact, they're actually heading for what could be a catastrophic decline.
Let me explain.
On February 18, 2009, I wrote a piece that said bank stocks should not be written off.
I observed at the time that the best U.S. banks had huge business strengths that were not fully undermined by the financial crisis. So I advised investors buy shares of the best among them.
As it turns out, that recommendation may have been too timid.
That is, most bank stocks - including some of the weakest and least investment-worthy - have surged since my article's publication.
Even following a lukewarm second quarter and last week's market meltdown, the top six banks - Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C), Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS), and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) - are in a relatively impressive position.
Take a look for yourself:
- Goldman Sachs stock is up about 22%.
- Bank of America is up 30%.
- JPMorgan is up about 49%.
- And Wells Fargo is up 55%.
But in light of this remarkable run up, and the disastrous pitfalls that lie ahead, now is the time to bail on bank stocks.
Margins are narrowing, government regulation is increasing, and the outlook for big deals is drying up.
In other words: The risks related to bank stocks are as present as they ever were - just the profitability is missing.
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