The Surest Bet in Big Banking

The following video is part of our "Motley Fool Conversations" series, in which senior analyst Anand Chokkavelu, CFA, discusses topics across the investing world. There are many seeming values in banking today. However, of the six largest American banks -- Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, and Citigroup -- one stands out as the safest investment. Even though it's the highest priced, Anand believes Wells Fargo presents the best risk-weighted rewards. He explains in the video below.

The financial heavies are getting a lot of press these days. And much of it is negative. But there's one small bank that's flying under the radar. It has some of the best operational numbers you'll ever see. The Motley Fool featured it in its brand-new free report: "The Stocks Only the Smartest Investors Are Buying." We invite you to download a free copy. To find out the name of the bank Buffett would probably be interested in if he could still invest in small banks, just click here.

Anand Chokkavelu owns shares of Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase. He also owns long-dated options on Bank of America and warrants on Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase. The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup. The Fool owns shares of and has created a covered strangle position in Wells Fargo. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of The Goldman Sachs Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On May 31, 2012, at 6:04 PM, MHedgeFundTrader wrote:

    This is far and away the world’s premier banking institution. Estimates of the huge trading losses by the London “whale”, initially pegged at $2 billion, have since skyrocketed to $6 billion. I’ll ignore the Internet rumors that speculate about a $30 billion hickey. As you well know, almost everything on the net is not true, except what you read in my own newsletter.

    Back in the 1980’s when I was at Morgan Stanley, the inside joke was to look for nice office space for ourselves whenever we visited clients at (JPM). The expectation was that they would take us over when Glass-Steagle ended, as they were both the same institution before the Securities and Exchange Act broke them up in 933. When the separation of commercial and investment banking finally came in 1999, Morgan Stanley had grown far too big to swallow and the egos too big to manage.

    I’ll tell you another way to look at this trade. (JPM) lost 4.7% of its capital, so Mr. Market chewed 30% out of its capitalization. Sounds a bit overdone, no? The bad news is already in the price. A large part of the offending position has already been liquidated.

    I have analyzed the specific trade that got (JPM) into so much trouble, the now infamous “Investment Grade Series 9 Ten Year Index Credit Default Swap.” The chart of its recent performance and its hedge is posted below. It was in effect a $100 billion “RISK ON” trade that came to grief in early May.

    Few outside the industry are aware that this was a $6 billion gift to two dozen hedge funds who are now shouting about record performance. It is, after all, a zero sum game. Didn’t Bruno get the memo to “Sell in May and go away”? He obviously doesn’t read The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader either.

    Even if the worst case scenario is true and the $6 billion numbers proves good, that only takes a 4.7% bite out of the bank’s $127 billion in capital. It is in no way life threatening, nor requiring any bailouts. These shares at this price are showing an eye popping low multiple of 7X earnings, and have already been punished enough. Getting shares this cheap in this company is a once in a lifetime gift, and twice in a lifetime if you count the 2009 crash low.

    You don’t have to run out and bet the farm right here. Scale in instead, and if the market drops, you can always cost average down. If Greece forces us into major meltdown mode, we can also hedge this “RISK ON” trade through taking more aggressive “RISK OFF” positions, like selling short the (FXE), (SPX), (IWM), (GLD), or the (SLV) by buying puts.

    Mad Hedge Fund Trader

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Related Tickers

4/22/2014 4:00 PM
WFC $49.23 Up +0.11 +0.22%
Wells Fargo CAPS Rating: ****
BAC $16.29 Up +0.20 +1.24%
Bank of America CAPS Rating: ***
C $48.02 Up +0.18 +0.38%
Citigroup Inc CAPS Rating: ***
GS $160.46 Up +2.66 +1.69%
Goldman Sachs CAPS Rating: ***
JPM $55.81 Up +0.78 +1.42%
JPMorgan Chase & C… CAPS Rating: ***

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