In a private speech to the Financial Planning Association, legendary Vanguard founder and former CEO John Bogle made an absolutely critical observation about where the best stock returns come from -- and how to find the next great stock to buy.
He told the assembled guests that only three things drive investor returns:
- Earnings growth
- Changes in valuation
Historically, stocks have returned 9.6% per year on average -- 5%, 4.5%, and 0.1% from dividends, earnings growth, and valuation changes, respectively. Naturally, the best stocks produce the highest combined return.
So which regional banks will earn investors the best returns today? Obviously, no one knows for sure. You should always take future estimates with a grain of salt, particularly when analyst forecasts are involved. In fact, studies show that analysts' long-term earnings-per-share estimates tend to be over-optimistic by roughly 40%, so I've reduced their estimates accordingly.
But investing is all about making predictions based on imperfect knowledge of the future. As long as we’re aware of the need to think critically about a company’s prospects and to build a margin of safety into our stock purchases, analyst estimates can be a helpful tool for generating ideas. By running the numbers, we can round up the stocks that represent their implied best buys today. Here are our assumptions:
Dividend Yield (current)
5-Year Growth Rate (reduced by 40%)
Price-to-Earnings Ratio (in 2016)
|Popular (Nasdaq: BPOP )||0.0%||4%||13|
|International Bancshares (Nasdaq: IBOC )||2.7%||6%||15|
|Renasant (Nasdaq: RNST )||5.4%||5%||14|
|Community Trust (Nasdaq: CTBI )||5.2%||6%||15|
|KeyCorp (NYSE: KEY )||1.9%||3%||12|
|Webster Financial (NYSE: WBS )||1.2%||9%||17|
|PNC Financial Services (NYSE: PNC )||2.9%||4%||12|
|CVB Financial (Nasdaq: CVBF )||4.1%||8%||16|
|Univest Corp. of Pennsylvania (Nasdaq: UVSP )||6.3%||6%||15|
|First of Long Island (Nasdaq: FLIC )||3.8%||6%||15|
|M&T Bank (NYSE: MTB )||3.8%||5%||14|
|Enterprise Financial Services (Nasdaq: EFSC )||1.5%||4%||13|
|Community Bank System (NYSE: CBU )||4.4%||6%||14|
|Bank of the Ozarks (Nasdaq: OZRK )||1.8%||3%||12|
|Independent Bank (Nasdaq: INDB )||3.4%||5%||13|
Data from Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Includes stocks on major U.S. exchanges capitalized at more than $200 million, with positive earnings and at least one analyst issuing long-term earnings estimates.
And here are their implied five-year annualized returns for shareholders. I've ordered the three return components by their reliability: first dividends, then earnings growth, then valuation.
Earnings Growth Return
Implied Cumulative Annual Return
|PNC Financial Services||3%||4%||10%||17%|
|Univest Corp. of Pennsylvania||6%||6%||4%||16%|
|First of Long Island||4%||6%||6%||16%|
|Enterprise Financial Services||2%||4%||10%||15%|
|Community Bank System||5%||6%||4%||15%|
|Bank of the Ozarks||2%||3%||10%||15%|
Source: Author's calculations. *Assumes dividend growth at rate of earnings growth.
The raw numbers tell us that these are the 15 most promising names among regional banks. Of course, analysts' growth assumptions for any individual company could prove overly optimistic or pessimistic, as could their future valuations, so the implied cumulative returns are hypothetical. With banks in today’s environment, it’s also worth considering loan growth, credit quality, and price-to-book valuations. That said, this list helps you focus on this sector's highest potential returners -- and provides an excellent starting point of names for further research.