March has historically been a strong month for the financial sector, with the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF) averaging a monthly gain of 3.4% over the past 10 years, per data from Schaeffer’s Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White. Echoing this, data from Schaeffer’s Quantitative Analyst Chris Prybal shows the SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF (KRE) has averaged a 2.9% March return since its inception — its best month by far. Drilling down, Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF) and PNC Financial Services Group Inc (NYSE:PNC) are two of the best stocks to own in March, while Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) could be flashing a “buy” signal of its own.
Capital One Stock Overdue for Upgrades
Over the last decade, Capital One Financial shares have averaged a 4.34% return in March, and have finished the month positive 90% of the time. Based on the stock’s current perch at $101.32 — up 0.6% so far today — another move of this magnitude would put COF shares near $105.72, just a chip-shot away from their Jan. 24 record high of $106.50.
And while the bank stock pulled back with the broader equities market in early February, it found a foothold in the $91-$92 neighborhood. This area is home to a 50% Fibonacci retracement of COF’s September-to-January surge, and its rising 120-day moving average.
The shares bounced sharply from here, and there’s plenty of skepticism to be unwound — which could keep the bank stock rally going. In fact, 10 of 17 analysts maintain lackluster “hold” recommendations, leaving the door wide open for a round of upgrades.
PNC Stock Eyes Longest Monthly Win Streak in Years
PNC Financial stock has gained 4.82%, on average, in March, looking back over the past 10 years, and boasts a 90% win rate. The stock is already pacing for a 3% February return, which will mark its sixth straight monthly win — its longest monthly win streak since 2014. What’s more, PNC shares topped out at a record high $163.58 earlier, and were last seen trading up 0.5% at $162.72, after KBW boosted its price target to $166 from $162.
More bullish brokerage notes could certainly be in the cards for a stock that’s added roughly 37% in the last nine months. While 11 of 17 brokerages rate PNC stock a “hold,” the average 12-month price target of $161.10 stands at a discount to current trading levels.
Short-Term Bank of America Options are Cheap
Bank of America stock has also been impressive on the charts, and hit a nine-year high of $32.72 earlier today. Most recently, BAC shares were trading 0.9% higher at $32.70, holding above potential support at their 10% year-to-date breakeven mark — and more gains could be on the horizon.
Specifically, BAC’s Schaeffer’s Volatility Index (SVI) of 19% ranks in the 5th annual percentile. Not only does this point to relatively cheap short-term options, but, per data from White, there have been four other times since 2008 that the stock has been trading near 52-week highs while front-month implied volatilities have been this low.
Following those previous signals, Bank of America shares were up 4.46%, on average, one month later. Based on BAC’s current perch, another move like this would put it near $34 for the first time since October 2008.
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