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5 Stocks to Make the Most of an Imminent Rate Hike

Zacks Equity Research
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The Fed’s new chairman Jerome Powell’s optimistic view on U.S. economic growth and encouraging near-term inflation outlook have raised the possibility of a rate hike this month. Banks, brokerage firms and insurers will benefit the most from this much anticipated hike.     

Faster Pace of Policy Tightening by Fed

The Fed is likely to increase rates in the 1.5-1.75% range, at the end of the two-day Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) policy meet tomorrow. According to the CME Fed Watch Tool, the odds of a rate hike this time is as high as 94.4%.

Powell projects the next few years to be ‘good years’ for the U.S. economy. The Fed chairman and other members of the FOMC predict that the economy will continue to improve on the back of Trump administration’s $1.5-trillion tax-cut plan and the $200-billion spending bill, rising employability, upbeat wage rates and increasing consumer confidence.  

Also, Powell’s reaffirmation on more frequent rake hikes by the Fed this year has boosted market sentiment.

Moreover, higher-than-expected rise in wage rates this January has triggered inflation fear.  In February, the U.S. Consumer Price Index was up 2.2% year over year, while the core index improved 1.8% from the year-ago period for the third consecutive month.

The Fed’s favored gauge of inflation stands at 1.5%. However, central bankers anticipate the value to “move up” this year. Furthermore, upbeat consumer sentiment is giving rise to inflation expectations. The University of Michigan consumer-sentiment index is pegged at 102 in March, up from 99.7 recorded in February. Notably, inflation rate in 2019 is projected at 2.9%, marking a three-year high.

Likely Gainers from a Rate Hike

Brokerage firms and asset managers will benefit from higher interest rates since rise in rates generally coincides with periods of economic strength and investor enthusiasm.

In addition, a rising-rate environment will be beneficial for bank stocks as banks widen the spread between what they earn by funding longer-term assets, such as loans, with shorter-term liabilities.

Moreover, rise in rates will enable insurance firms to invest in higher-yielding government securities, thereby leading to greater returns.

5 Hot Picks

Given such positives, we have highlighted five promising stocks that are poised to gain from the impending rate hike.

These companies carry a favorable Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy) and have performed better than the industry over the last three months. Notably, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for these stocks has been revised upward for the current year over the last 60 days.  

Health Insurance Innovations, Inc. HIIQ is an insurance company in the United States. The company sports a Zacks Rank #1. Over the last 60 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the stock has moved 26.7% upward to $2.42 for 2018. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here..

In the last three months, the stock has appreciated 14.9%, as against the 7% loss incurred by the industry.

FGL Holdings FG is an insurance company in the United States. The company flaunts a Zacks Rank of 1. Over the last 60 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the stock has moved up 25.3% to 94 cents for 2018.
The stock has gained 6% in three months’ time, as against the 7% loss incurred by the industry.

First Financial Northwest, Inc. FFNW offers commercial banking services in the United States. The company sports a Zacks Rank #1. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the stock has moved 8.7% north to $1.13 for 2018, in the last 60 days.

Over the past month, shares of the company have rallied 8.3%, outperforming 5% growth recorded by the industry

Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC OZM offers financial products and services in the United States. The company also carries a Zacks Rank of 1. Over the last 60 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the stock moved up 48.4% to 46 cents for 2018.

The stock has gained 1.5%, as against the 1.2% loss incurred by the industry in the last three months.

Virtus Investment Partners, Inc. VRTS offers financial products and services in the United States. The company holds a Zacks Rank of 2. Over the last 60 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the stock moved up 4.1% to $12.36 for 2018.

Shares of the company have rallied 11.7%, as against the 1.2% loss incurred by the industry, over the last three months.

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