The old saying goes, "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." This year, Punxsutawney Phil predicted more lamb than lion as the old groundhog predicted an early spring.

If only there was a large rodent from Pennsylvania to predict what's going to happen on the stock market. Especially now, because March has come in like a bucking bronco on steroids, rocked by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The markets are fluctuating like crazy, which has investors holding on tight and not always sure of where this ride will go. Some are looking for safe harbors; others may be looking for great buying opportunities.

With that in mind, here are two super cheap financial sector stocks that tick off at least one of the boxes -- one that offers excellent growth potential and one that gives downside protection.


Not even a groundhog could have predicted this market volatility. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Bancorp

Bancorp (TBBK 0.26%) is a regional bank based out of Delaware that offers private label banking services to online and nonbank lenders. It provides the online platform and technology for its clients -- or essentially the back-end services and solutions. Bancorp specializes in lending, savings and spending accounts, debit cards, prepaid cards, payment systems, among other services. Its more than 100 corporate clients include financial companies like Chime, SoFi, Simple, and PayPal

Bancorp says it has been the market leader in the issuance of prepaid cards for seven years running. It has distributed over 75 million prepaid cards in that time. Fee income from prepaid cards increased 30% to $17 million in the fourth quarter. Gross dollar volume (GDV), which represents money spend on prepaid cards, increased 41% in the fourth quarter to $19.1 million. Prepaid cards represent the company's largest source of non-interest income.

The stock price is currently trading at about $6 per share with a low P/E ratio of 6.7. The price has dropped about 54% year-to-date and is getting hit by the recent broader market sell-off rather than anything it is doing. As one of the leading providers in the growing private label banking segment, with strong growth potential, it is a great time to buy this stock. 

2. MFA Financial

MFA Financial (MFA -1.11%) is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that focuses on residential mortgage assets. Through the most recent sell-off, the stock price is down about 26.8% year-to-date and is trading at around $5.60 per share.

In the fourth quarter, net income was $96.9 million, up 69% from $57.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2018. Net interest income was up 14% in the quarter to $70.6 million and 11% for the year to $249.3 million.

The company acquired $1.7 billion of residential mortgage assets in the fourth quarter, which includes $1.5 billion of residential whole loans -- which are, as the name implies, whole single loans that a lender has issued to a borrower. For the year, MFA had a record year, acquiring $4.3 billion in mortgages. MFA's whole residential loan portfolio increased by $2.9 billion during the year, while the overall loan portfolio increased by over $1 billion last year.

MFA has had an advantage in this environment because of its investment strategy, which focuses on credit-sensitive mortgages and maintains a low-interest rate duration in its portfolio, which mitigates against rate fluctuations.

MFA also pays out a great dividend. As a REIT, it is required by statute to distribute at least 90% of its taxable income to stockholders. But MFA pays out 96.7% of its income in dividends with a yield of 11.2% of its share price. That comes out to $0.20 per share per quarter, or $0.80 per share per year.

If you're looking for growth, this stock isn't it. But in a bear market, this is a steady performer that won't lose a lot of value, will pay a solid dividend, and will offer protection on the downside. 

Corrections like the one we are going through right now can be difficult to withstand while they're happening, but they also provide a great opportunity to pick up good stocks at bargain-basement prices. These are just two ridiculously cheap financial stocks that investors should consider scooping up.