2 Bank Stocks to Buy Calls On Right Now

Low volatility expectations are being priced into short-term options on JPM and MS

Karee Venema
Aug 2, 2017 at 1:45 PM
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Bank stocks have been flying high since the early November U.S. presidential election, with the Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF) hitting a nine-year high of $25.33 today, last seen trading at $25.26. Today's milestone follows three successful tests of the $23 mark in the second quarter, an area that coincides with a 38.2% Fibonacci retracement of XLF's post-election surge.

Echoing this impressive price action within the financial sector, 88% of the 25 stocks we track under our "Wall Street" umbrella are trading north of their 80-day moving averages, according to data from Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White. However, just 46% of analysts maintain a "buy" rating -- down from 56% of "buy" ratings at this time last year. Not to mention, short interest on the group is up 9.6% over the past 12 months.

JPM, MS Stocks Could Be Headed to Higher Highs

Such low expectations surrounding the outperforming sector suggests financial stocks could have room to run. Drilling down, big banks JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) are two names in particular that could present intriguing trading ideas for contrarian bulls. 

JPM stock has added 45.5% in the past 12 months. More recently, the shares took a sharp bounce off their 180-day moving average in early June, before going on to tag a record high of $94.51 on July 6. Since then, the $90 region has emerged as a newfound level of support, and coincides with JPMorgan's February highs.

In spite of this long-term uptrend, 10 of 17 analysts maintain a "hold" or "strong sell" on the shares, while the average 12-month price target of $95.78 stands at a slim 3.3% premium to JPM's current perch at $92.75. This leaves the door wide open for a round of upgrades and/or price-target hikes to fuel the security even higher up the charts.

Morgan Stanley shares are boasting a nearly 68% year-over-year lead, thanks in part to a strong rally off their 160-day moving average in May. The bank name proved resilient to a trend of poorly received second-quarter financial-sector earnings, with the stock surging 3.3% on July 19 after earnings -- and hitting a nine-year high of $48.04 on July 25.

There's still plenty of room for analysts to catch up with this impressive price action, too. Of the 15 brokerages covering Morgan Stanley, seven rate the shares a "hold" or "strong sell." Plus, the consensus 12-month price target sits at $49.39 -- just 5.2% above the stock's present price at $46.94.

The Time is Right to Buy Premium on JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley Options

What's more, two volatility indicators suggest now is a prime time to purchase premium on these two surging bank stocks. For starters, both JPM and MS have a Schaeffer's Volatility Scorecard (SVS) reading of 98, suggesting the equities have tended to make outsized moves over the past year, regardless of what the options market has priced in.

Plus, JPM's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 13% is ranked in the 5th percentile of its annual range, while MS' SVI of 19% is docked 1 percentage point from an annual low. This indicates low volatility expectations are being priced into the stocks' near-term options -- a potential boon to premium buyers and straddle traders.

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