3 Fundamentally Sound Financials

By Aryeh Katz | October 21, 2010 AAA

It's a wonder what a falling market can do. For one, it brings into clearer focus which sectors are weakest. Those that suffer the greatest losses when the market is trending downward, of course, possess the least investor confidence. But it can also turn up some great value plays. Often within those same losing sectors there are stocks that get dragged through the maelstrom that have no fundamental operating issues worth worrying about. In fact, it's often the case that companies turn up on the radar that are bucking the trend outright - operating very profitable businesses in the face of a sliding market.

So it is now with the financials after news that a number of large American lenders may not have followed proper foreclosure protocol with clients. The selloff in the financials has been bad enough. But there are also gems emerging in that sector that are worth a spot in your portfolio. Take a gander at three of them below, and consider possible entry points in the days and weeks to come.

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Canadian Insurance
Manulife Financial (NYSE:MFC) is a Canadian insurer with operations spanning 22 countries around the world. The company's shares now trade with a dividend yield of 4.24% and a price/earnings ratio of 7.82. Manulife shares have not had a good 2010. Though the shares have stabilized over the last couple of months, year-to-date they're down over 30%. That's a lot worse than the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSE:XLF), a proxy for the broader financial sector, that is up a fraction of a percent on the year.

MFC also sports some deeply undervalued price to book and price to sales numbers, the former coming in at just 0.85 and the latter at 0.53. That could be why 55% of the company's float is held by institutional investors. (To learn more, see Using The Price-To-Book Ratio To Evaluate Companies.)

In late September, Fitch Ratings assigned an A- grade to Manulife's most recent bond offering and affirmed the company's outlook as stable.

Buyout Surge
Shares of The Student Loan Corporation (NYSE:STU) have also struggled since New Year's, losing 36%, but are up convincingly in the last month. News of the firm's impending takeover by Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS) caused the stock to surge by as much as 50%.

STU shares trade with a P/E of 5.2 and a dividend yield of 4.7. The company provides loans for students in need of financing post-secondary education.

Maximum Return
Source Capital, Inc. (NYSE:SOR) is a closed end fund that invests in equities to achieve a maximum total return. The stock currently yields 5% and trades with a P/E of 5.5. Year-to-date the shares are up nearly 11%.

Bottom Line
The financials may be down as a group recently, but there are some decent looking companies on offer as a result.

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