Friday, May 08, 2009

Fifth Third: Mortgage Refi Hope vs. Stress Test Results

Fifth Third Bank (FITB) rocketed 25% yesterday after news came out that its mortgage unit had refinanced $21 million of Freddie Mac loans recently.

There's no question that when you look at FITB -- or any of the regional banks -- they look cheap on a price-to-book basis. Signs like yesterday's that the mortgage crisis is close to bottoming and that they will participate meaningfully in the recovery are a boon to the stock price.

The question you have to overlook in investing in a FITB (and the other smaller regionals) is what will Thursday's bank stress test results reveal about its capital needs. As such, the shares of FITB and other regional banks will trade like options this week.

If the stress test results are similar to recent earnings results, anything short of complete disaster will be taken as a positive and shares will rally. There are risks, but I've taken a small position in FITB. I particularly like the insider holdings at this bank (2.4%) and another Ohio-based bank, Huntington Bancshares (HBAN) (9% with some buying in the last week), compared to a Regions Financial (RF)(where insider holdings are less than 0.5%).

FITB and HBAN also have almost double and triple the short ratios respectively as RF. This rocket fuel will also send shares higher on even muted news on Thursday.

Position: Long FITB.

Originally published in on 5/5/2009 7:50 AM EDT

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