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Oppenheimer Raises Targets on Top Financial Stocks to Buy for a Challenging 2014

Trey Thoelcke

If there was one group of stocks that investors have a general dislike for it is the banks. Huge trading losses, mortgage litigation from the meltdown in 2008 and increased regulation in the form of the new Volcker Rule regulations have all kept enthusiasm on the sector muted. Despite a global bull market in equities that has taken the S&P up more than 60% in the past two years, investment bank trading profits seem likely to be down on a year-over-year basis again this quarter. Otherwise, things were kind of boring and steady, which the research team at Oppenheimer view as a good thing for the stocks in the context of recent years.

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In a new research report, they note that bank stocks are not as wildly undervalued as they were throughout the 2010 to 2012 timeframe, but they do think their fundamentals will be rock solid and that they are 5& to 10% undervalued relative to the market. Given the relative safety of the stocks, and the undervaluation in a pricey market, they focus on just five top names to own in 2014.

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Capital One Financial Corp. (COF) is a top financial name for 2014. With a focus on a very strong credit card and retail banking business, the company is expected to continue to post strong growth even after the Volcker Rule starts to take effect. The bank pays investors a 1.6% dividend. The Oppenheimer price target is raised to $81 from $80. The Thomson/First Call estimate is at $80. Capital One closed Monday at $75.82.

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CIT Group Inc. (CIT) has been consistently striving to expand its market share. In 2012, the company launched Maritime Finance, which offers secured loans to operators of oceangoing and inland cargo vessels, as well as offshore vessels and drilling rigs. In 2011, the company announced establishment of CIT Real Estate Finance business and an online bank. All these initiatives are expected to drive revenue growth going forward. Investors receive a tiny 0.4% dividend. Oppenheimer raises their 2014 price target to $59 from $55. The consensus target is at $55. CIT closed Monday at $51.64.

Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) remains a top name to buy at Oppenheimer and around Wall Street. While the Volcker Rule will restrict the banks proprietary trading, the increased market share that Citigroup is gaining around the world should help to offset the trading revenue. Continuing focus on credit card revenue, investment banking and commercial lending should all help to grow top and bottom line numbers in 2014. Investors are paid a miniscule 0.1% dividend. The Oppenheimer price target goes from $63 to $64. The consensus is set at $60.50. Citigroup closed Monday at $51.92.

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Discover Financial Services (DFS) operates in two segments. The Direct Banking segment offers Discover card-branded credit cards to individuals and small businesses on the Discover Network. The Payment Services segment operates PULSE, an automated teller machine, debit and electronic funds transfer network; and Diners Club, a global payments network, as well as a network partners business, which includes credit, debit and prepaid cards issued on the Discover Network by third parties. Investors are paid a 1.5% dividend. Oppenheimer pushes its price target from $58 to $60. The consensus target is at $59. Discover closed Monday at $55.07.

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) rounds out the top five names to buy for 2014 at Oppenheimer. As 2013 has come to an end, the company may also be nearing the end of a bad year for losses and penalty payouts. The company is expected to benefit from commercial loan growth and an upturn in capital spending. Investors are paid a 2.7% dividend. The Oppenheimer price target is kept steady at $73, the highest on Wall Street. The consensus is at $63, and J.P. Morgan closed Monday at $57.95.

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The Oppenheimer team has a sharp focus on the market leaders. While they acknowledge that the Volcker Rule will impact all the top stocks to buy, they also point out that the banks have all been preparing for the eventuality of the new regulations for some time. This should help all the companies smooth over certain losses of revenue in 2014 and continue to grow their core business lines.

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