Analyst: Buy Discover Stock Over Capital One

The stock chart for Discover looks more bullish than Capital One's

by Josh Selway

Published on Feb 21, 2018 at 9:09 AM

Brokerage firm Instinet this morning weighed in on financial stocks Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF) and Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS). Analysts there cut COF shares to "neutral" from "buy" and trimmed the price target to $109 from $111, saying DFS stock offers a better valuation. The note also mentioned that Discover had better loan and sales growth over the past year, and that trend should continue into 2019.

Taking a closer look, this move matches the general opinion on the Street. That is, the majority of analysts covering Capital One have just nine "hold" ratings in place, while Discover sports 11 "strong buy" recommendations, versus just six "hold" or "strong sell" ratings.

But at the same time, the average 12-month price targets for each security hint at bullish expectations. COF's consensus price target of $115.24 represents upside of 17% from Tuesday's settlement of $98.46, and DFS's average price target of $89.91 is an almost 13% premium to its most recent share price of $79.63.

Taking a quick peek into the options pits, data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) shows put buying has easily outpaced call buying on both names during the past two weeks. During this time frame COF's March 92.50 strike saw the biggest increase in open interest for all put options, while it was the April 70 put for DFS.

As for their technical performances, both stocks have been strong on the charts in recent months. Over the past six months alone, Capital One shares have rallied almost 21% and touched an all-time high of $106.50 on Jan. 24 -- though they're now bumping up against the 50-day moving average.

Discover, meanwhile, has gained nearly 34% during the same time period and recorded an all-time peak of $81.93 on Jan. 29. More recently, DFS bounced from its 80-day moving average during the broad market pullback.

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