Nothing like the charts to pore over on a cloudy weekend, where you can look with care at each pictograph and make some decisions about what's really happening and what isn't.
Let me give you some observations from this mountainous perusal.
First, despite the inability of the 10-year to punch through 2.4%, the financials, which need higher rates like California needs rain, are flying. They are the best charts in the book and are almost all in breakout mode.
There are big banks that look terrific, like Bank of New York (BK), JPMorgan (JPM) and PNC (PNC). There are regionals that seem irrepressible, namely, Key (KEY), First Horizon (FHN), Fifth Third (FITB), Huntington (HBAN) and Synovus (SNV). Both of these segments would not be going up if comparisons were getting harder. In fact, you could craft a thesis that all investors might care about is the end to net interest margin compression and we will begin to lap easier comparisons, so that's certainly possible.
There aren't many insurers that look all that special, with AIG (AIG) leading the list. The brokers seem incredibly strong, especially Schwab (SCHW) and E*Trade (ETFC). They, too, react to higher rates and I find their strength a little more puzzling than the banks', because it isn't like people are beating down the doors to trade stocks. Intercontinental (ICE) retains its luster as a brutal consolidator. What a stock! The hybrid that is Northern Trust (NTRS) acts incredibly well, too.
Given what John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo (WFC) calls the "muted" housing recovery, I was surprised to see so many mortgage insurers in the breakout stage, namely Radian (RDN), MGIC (MTG) and MBIA (MBI). I always thought it was incredible that the latter two survived at all. Radian remains an excellent company. Perhaps this resurgence simply comes because the Feds are pulling out of the insurance business.
Of course, the chicken way to play financials never seems to go out of style. The usual credit card companies, Capital One (COF), MasterCard (MA) and Visa (V), are strong. Portfolio managers have hidden in these three for years. American Express (AXP), even after that big buyback and Discover (DFS), don't seem to be tempting at all.
Lots of ancillary fins just keep going higher. Outsourcers like DST (DST), Fiserv (FISV), Equifax (EFX) always seem to be on the plus side, the latter kind of a total perennial.
I could go on and on with the love shown to this group, including stocks like McGraw Hill (MHFI), Intuit (INTU) and Morningstar (MORN), but the real point is that this whole sector is not only strong, it is by far the strongest, as people keep positioning themselves for the inevitable move higher in rates.
(You can read Part 2 of this article here)