LONDON -- After it crashed 24% in the wake of overnight sanction-busting allegations from the New York Department of Financial Services, it wasn't much of a surprise to discover Standard Chartered (LSE: STAN.L ) was the No. 1 buy among private clients of stockbroker TD Direct Investing between the market's opening and noon GMT.
Focused heavily on overseas markets -- and especially fast-growing emerging markets -- Standard Chartered has long been a relatively pricey pick among banks, having had little exposure to the combined taint of subprime mortgages and staggering Western economies. No longer.
As of this morning, Standard was offering a P/E of nine and a yield of 4.3%. Accordingly, investors piled in, with the ratio of shares bought outnumbering shares sold by six to one. Heck, I fancied a dabble myself (but decided against it).
Nor was the second-most popular share purchase much of a surprise. In recent days, banks have continued to be popular buys among the broker's private clients, and as Barclays (LSE: BARC.L ) dipped southward, investors again loaded up. No real news has emerged, but the boardroom confusion clearly continues, and investors are sensing a window of opportunity while it does.
In contrast, Royal Bank of Scotland (LSE: RBS.L ) , down 1.6% at the time of writing, was in fifth place in the list of top sells, but not at all in the list of top buys. How come? Namely, there are rumors of nationalization in order to use the bank's high-street and business-sector prominence to boost lending and help get the economy moving.
Completing the banking theme, Lloyds Banking Group (LSE: LLOY.L ) was the fifth-most popular buy between the market's opening and noon. Again, there's no real news, but behind the headlines there's a growing sense that progress is being made. The rate of bad loans is declining, the bloated balance sheet is slimming, and the longed-for dividend gets ever closer. For some investors, then, the glass was more half-full than half-empty.
Will they be disappointed? Time will tell.
Finally, what are super-investors Neil Woodford and Warren Buffett buying today? We can't tell you that, but we can tell you the names of the shares that they've bought in the recent past and why they bought them.
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