Monday, September 3, 2007

Your Target for Financial Stocks

As the trouble with subprime lenders unravel, we need to be ready to be proactive and grab financial stocks that are getting hammered for unfair reason. This means that the company is either getting involved very little in the subprime business or people are concerned that even the AAA rated loans will be seriously affected.

That brings us to two possible candidates that I can think of:

Washington Mutual Inc. (WM). This company has little if any mortgage borrowers with subprime credits. Washington Mutual is the ninth biggest subprime lenders according to Marketwatch. However, due to its sheer size, it represents less than 5% of its total loans. Washington Mutual is also one of the biggest mortgage lenders in the country. If the housing sector weakened considerably, Washington Mutual will get hit in the process. What is attractive about Washington Mutual is its low valuation (forward P/E of 9 if all is well and good) and 5% dividend yield at current price of around $ 40. When default of subprime loans occur, Washington Mutual may take a hit for the current year's earnings, but if the incident is isolated, earning would rebound the following year. At $ 40 per share, I believe that Washington Mutual is too risky for the play. If it happens to go down to $ 30/ share, this has a significant chance of getting you a 50% return or so down the road.

Countrywide Financial Corp. (CFC). Countrywide is getting linked more to subprime borrowers than Washington Mutual Therefore, share price may drop more. At current price of $ 35, Countrywide has a forward P/E of 7. Still, forward P/E is misleading should many of the subprime borrowers default on their loan. Countrywide is the third largest subprime lenders in the country according to Marketwatch. However, subprime loans merely represent 7% of the company total loan. While the dividend is not enticing, its forward P/E is lower than Washington Mutual. For patient investors, Countrywide Financial might be a good investment at $ 25 per share.

Will there be any opportunity to pick up these shares at the forementioned price? Nobody knows. However, the goal in investing is to minimize risk. I feel that at current price, while cheap, has a little more risk that I can tolerate. Of course, you should not simply buy the shares just because the price hits certain point. Do further research to find out if the drop is warranted or not. The above mentioned price is merely a starting point for investor to do research.

Novice Investing is the online investing guide for beginners. You can also submit investing articles here