Trading Nation

'Be selective' when it comes to financials, trader says — here's the stock he recommends

Financials make a comeback—Here's where they could be headed next
Financials make a comeback—Here's where they could be headed next

Be selective.

That's the play for the financial sector as the group lifts off its worst weekly performance since the financial crisis, according to Ari Wald, senior technical analyst at Oppenheimer.

"In terms of the banks, indeed, interest rates are the wild card. You've got to be selective," Wald told CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Monday, referring to Fed's pledge to "act as appropriate" to support the economy amid the global spread of the coronavirus.

"The one to own [is] JPMorgan. That's the quality stock," Wald said.

Wald sees opportunity in nontraditional financial stocks, including those of security exchanges, data-service firms and private equity companies, noting that many of them were "correcting into key support levels." Wald said JPMorgan is the one to buy for investors looking specifically for banking plays.

"Look at the chart of JPMorgan versus the financial sector," he said.

"Indeed, it's been weak of late, but all within what is still a longer-term trend of outperformance," the analyst said. JPMorgan shares closed up more than 4.5% on Monday and were fractionally higher in Tuesday's premarket.

"For comparison purposes, check out … one of its biggest peers, Wells Fargo, versus the sector," Wald said. "Also weak of late, but with what could be a resumption of long-term underperformance. JPM over Wells is the call."

Wells Fargo shares ended trading up nearly 3.5% on Monday after hitting lows not seen since 2013. It was flat in Tuesday's premarket.

Chad Morganlander, senior portfolio manager and co-founder of Washington Crossing Advisors, wasn't keen on the financials at all, given the uncertainty around the path of U.S. interest rates. Lower interest rates are a headwind for bank stocks. 

"We would be underweight financials at this point in time," he said in the same "Trading Nation" interview. "We think that net interest margins are going to suffer not only in Q1, but Q2 and potentially Q3. Also, credit markets as well as capital markets we believe will be struggling over the course of the next 90 days."

Morganlander said he preferred stocks of quality, a factor that is broadly defined as having a steady, reliable profit stream, lower-than-average debt and stable earnings.

"Overall, we would be moving up the quality spectrum and, in fact, we'd shift to our overweight, which would be consumer staples," Morganlander said.

The SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) climbed nearly 4.5% in Monday trading as the broader market made a meaningful bounce back from its depressed levels. The Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLP) climbed over 5%.