3 Bank Stocks Soaring Just Under the Radar

OFG, ARCC, and CMA are among the soaring bank stocks surrounded by skepticism

Dec 14, 2016 at 3:09 PM
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Finance has arguably been the hottest sector since the election, with stocks like Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE:GS) and Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) finally back in pre-financial-crisis territory. However, while big-cap banks have been garnering most of the attention, several financial stocks are flying under the radar. Among the Wall Street stocks that could have room to run are Puerto Rico-based banking concern OFG Bancorp (NYSE:OFG), specialty finance issue Ares Capital Corporation (NASDAQ:ARCC), and Dallas-based wealth-management stock Comerica Incorporated (NYSE:CMA).

Of the dozens of financial stocks that we track, OFG is the only one that's more than doubled in the past year, up 110%. What's more, the stock sports one of the best year-to-date return, up a whopping 85.5%. The shares are now facing off with the $14-$15 area, which acted as support from early 2013 into early 2015. OFG was last seen 0.4% lower on the day -- well off its intraday lows -- at $13.80, as traders digest hawkish Fed commentary. 

Despite the stock's prowess on the charts, you'd be hard-pressed to find bulls. Just two analysts offer up coverage, and both maintain a tepid "hold" opinion -- leaving the door wide open for bullish initiations or upgrades to lure more buyers to the table. Likewise, short interest jumped 13.6% during the past two reporting periods, and now represents two weeks' worth of pent-up buying demand, at OFG Bancorp's (NYSE:OFG) average daily trading volume -- lots of fuel for a potential short squeeze.

ARCC has stair-stepped more than 30% higher since February, touching a fresh annual high of $16.91 on Monday. The stock sports a year-to-date gain of nearly 13%, yet short sellers remain almost fixated. Short interest has nearly quadrupled on Ares Capital Corporation (NASDAQ:ARCC) during the past year, and it would take nearly 14 sessions to buy back these bearish bets, at the equity's average pace of trading -- hands-down the highest short-interest ratio of bank stocks we follow. Should these skeptics finally get spooked, a short-covering rally could help ARCC to higher highs. At last check, ARCC was down 1.5% at $16.10.

CMA is among the best-performing bank stocks in 2016, boasting a year-to-date gain of nearly 64%. The shares were last seen 0.6% higher at $68.47, and on Monday capped off a nine-month, 80% rally by notching an 18-year high north of $70. However, you wouldn't know it by CMA's sentiment backdrop.

The equity's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.81 is higher than 80% of all other readings from the past year, implying that near-term option players are more put-biased than usual right now. Likewise, short interest swelled 26.2% during the past month, and just five out of 21 analysts deem CMA worthy of a "buy" or better rating. An unwinding of pessimism in the options pits, a short squeeze, or a flood of upbeat analyst notes could propel outperforming Comerica Incorporated (NYSE:CMA) shares even higher.

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