Markets: Three out of a big four

Three of the big four banks are good value for investors, according to Citigroup.

Still romanced by the big four bank stocks? Seduced by their prospective dividend payouts that are as much as 80 per cent of profits but nervous whether such a payout can continue? Have no fear, says Citigroup analyst Craig Williams.

Williams says his earnings models for the banks now account for a one-in-six-year economic slowdown. He expects the Australian economy to narrowly avoid recession next year. But such an economic slowdown will only result in a slide in earnings per share for the big four banks and “no absolute dividend per share cuts,” according to Williams.

“With no threat to dividend payouts from our slowdown scenario, the sector’s 5.9 per cent prospective dividend yield in our view still provides compelling value,” he says. Williams recommends investors buy ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac.

ANZ shares have gained 28 per cent in the last 12 months, Commonwealth Bank is up 32 per cent and Westpac’s stock has risen 35 per cent in the last year as the dominance of their business franchises, combined with more generous dividend payments, attracted an increasing wave of investors.

But between April 30 and June 12 ANZ shares dropped 17 per cent. They have since gained 7.9 per cent. Commonwealth Bank shares slid 11 per cent between May 20 and June 11 but have risen 7.6 per cent since. Westpac shares fell 19 per cent between May 1 and June 12 but have since added 5.7 per cent.

Meanwhile, Williams’ colleague Nigel Pittaway says Suncorp Group remains his recommended stock pick among insurance shares.

Pittaway forecasts Suncorp will pay a special dividend of 15 cents a share alongside an expected 27 cent per share ordinary dividend. He forecasts Suncorp’s shares will rise to $13.75, 13 per cent above its closing price of $12.17 yesterday.

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