Should I invest in American Riviera Bank stock (ARBV)?

Here are three reasons to invest in American Riviera Bank stock (ARBV) and three reasons to avoid it.

What does American Riviera Bank (ARBV) do?

A small bank in Santa Barbara, Calif., American Riviera opened in July of 2006. It’s done well, too, recently recently merging with The Bank of Santa Barbara. That gives ARBV two community branches, both of which are focused on growing their deposit bases and expanding lending.

Three reasons NOT to invest in American Riviera Bank stock (ARBV)

1) Under-performance. Year-to-date, ARBV is underperforming the S&P 500. Shares are up 3 percent while the broader market is up north of 5 percent. Still, that’s better than some of the nation’s largest banks. Bank of America (BAC), for example, is down more than 7 percent this year, and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is down half a percent.

2) Merger woes. ARBV recently merged with The Bank of Santa Barbara. Unexpected costs or difficulties with the merger could impact the bank’s ability to make a profit. Mergers that look great on paper can sometimes result in culture clashes that negatively impact a business.

3) Over-the-counter shares. ARBV trades over-the-counter – not on a national securities exchange like the NASDAQ. That means ARBV isn’t held to the same stringent reporting requirements as companies on the NASDAQ. We know less about ARBV than we do other banks that trade on the NYSE.

Three reasons to invest in American Riviera Bank stock (ARBV)

1) Strong growth. 2015 saw significant growth for the bank. According to ARBV’s 2015 annual report, the company grew its average total loans by 14 percent to $179 million. The bank also grew its average assets by 12 percent to $232,000. All told, the bank had net income of $1,303,000 in 2015 (unadjusted for non-recurring merger-related costs). That worked out to $0.48 per share. “Our bank finished the year with a record $249 million in assets and 18% higher pre-tax income over 2014 excluding merger related costs,” the company wrote.

At the end of 2015, ARBV had a book value of $10.56. Today, shares are trading at $11.65. Over the past five years, ARBV shares have appreciated more than 124 percent. That’s well above the S&P 500’s return of 84 percent. “Our goal is to reach a $1 per share earnings run rate by year end,” ARBV wrote early in 2016.

2) Great track record. American Riviera Bank celebrated its 10th anniversary on July 18, 2016. The finance industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries on the planet. Staying in business and growing over the course of a decade (particularly through the housing and financial collapse of 2007-2008) is impressive.

3) Merger time. American Riviera Bank merged with The Bank of Santa Barbara effective January 1, 2016. While this is adding significant merger-related costs to the company’s books, ARBV believes the “merger has positive financial synergies.” If you’re looking for growth, two branches are better than one.

Should I buy American Riviera Bank stock (ARBV)?

ARBV’s shares look appealing so long as interest rates begin to normalize. Artificially-low interest rates make it difficult for banks to generate big profits as the spread between their borrowing rate and the rate they lend to customers is small. If ARBV can continue to grow, it will do so by capturing more of the Santa Barbara County market – an area with a median household income of $63,409. Santa Barbara County is the 17th-wealthiest county in California. Right now, ARBV controls 2.77 percent of the market there (by deposits).

Nano-cap stocks are stocks with a market capitalization of $50 million or less. Check out more of my write-ups on nano-cap stocks here. Full disclosure: I do not own a position in ARBV, and I do not plan to initiate one in the next 72 hours.

Why Bank of America stock (NYSE:BAC) got crushed

It’s clear investors feel like Bank of America’s the ugliest house in a pretty crummy-looking neighborhood. Here are five reasons why.

It’s not often that one of the 30 largest stocks in the country drops 20 percent in a day. That’s what happened to Bank of America Corporation (NYSE:BAC) yesterday, though. The Dow component stock crumpled from $8.17 a share to $6.51 and it shed another 1.5 percent in after-hours trading.

Year-to-date, Bank of America stock is down 51 percent. But the bad news just doesn’t seem to be going away for America’s largest bank holding company. Here are five reasons the stock got crushed yesterday:

1) The mother of all lawsuits. American International Group, Inc. (NYSE:AIG) filed suit against BAC yesterday seeking at least $10 billion in damages for alleged fraud at the bank and at Countrywide Financial, a mortgage origination company that Bank of America acquired in 2007.

2) Did we mention the other lawsuits? AIG is just the latest in a string of high-profile lawsuits against BAC. Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, BlackRock, Inc. (NYSE:BLK), PIMCO and Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS) have also filed suits against the bank. And no one’s sure just how much it’s going to cost BAC to defend itself (not to mention how much it will cost if the bank does have to pay for damages one day).

3) Stock dilution, anyone? Bank of America maintains its stance that the company won’t have to issue more shares in order to cover costs associated with ongoing litigation. If the lawsuits keep coming, though, BAC might not have a choice. Win or lose, lawyers need paid.

4) Jumping ship. Regulatory filings released yesterday showed that hedge fund manager David Tepper of Appaloosa Management LP took a carving knife to his stake in BAC last quarter. Tepper pared off 42 percent of his holdings in the bank, narrowly escaping the guillotine that dropped yesterday. The news of Tepper’s move added fuel to an already fiery sell-off.

5) Downgrade central. In just two trading days, Bank of America shares were downgraded three times. On the heels of downgrades from Standard & Poor’s and Wells Fargo, the most recent thumbs-down comes from CLSA analyst Mike Mayo (per TheStreet). Mayo cut the stock from “buy” to “outperform” (which almost seems meaningless considering the stock’s loses year-to-date). Still, it’s yet another vote of no-confidence for BAC.

All told, yesterday’s 20 percent plunge in Bank of America’s share price wiped out $16 billion. Other banks didn’t fare much better, but it’s clear investors feel like Bank of America’s the ugliest house in a pretty crummy-looking neighborhood. For the year, BAC is down 51 percent. Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) is down 41 percent YTD, Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC) is down 26 percent, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) seems heroic having lost just 20 percent since the start of the year.

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Net income at Noah Holdings (NOAH) up 88 percent

With great wealth comes the desire to make even more of it, and Noah Holdings (NYSE:NOAH) appears perfectly positioned to help China’s newest millionaires amass even more cash.

First off, this disclaimer: Noah Holdings Limited (NYSE:NOAH) is one of the biggest holdings in my portfolio right now. A wealth management company that serves high-net-worth individuals in China, Noah released 4Q earnings last night. Analysts were spot on with their calls. The company reported $0.09 earnings per share, which met the Thomson Reuters consensus estimate of $0.09, according to AmericanBankingNews.com.

Net revenues at the company shot up 157 percent from $5.4 million in Q4 2009 to $14 million in Q4 2010. Over that same time span, net income attributable to shareholders rose 88.9 percent to $4.2 million. Those are heady numbers, and so are the company’s expectations for the rest of the year. Noah forecasts non-GAAP net income attributable to shareholders to hit a year-over-year increase in the range of 56.7% and 86.6%.

Analysts are also positive on the stock. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) initiated coverage on Noah Holdings with an Overweight rating and a $22.00 price target last month. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) analysts currently list Noah as a Buy with a $22.20 price target.

Both targets are more than 40 percent higher than the stock’s current price at $15.43. Apparently, I should have waited to buy my shares, which are down 3.5 percent since opening day, but I’m definitely not worried about the company’s long-term prospects.

There’s much talk about China’s burgeoning middle class, but, if luxury purchasing is any indication, the ranks of the upper class are swelling even faster. A new report by broker CSLA forecasts overall consumption in China will rise 11 percent per year over the next five years. Sales of luxury goods are expected to grow more than twice as quickly, by 25 percent a year.

“The wealth of China’s upper-middle class has reached an inflection point, reckons [the author of the CSLA report] Mr. Fischer. They have everything they need,” The Economist writes. “Now they want a load of stuff they don’t need, too.”

With great wealth comes the desire to make even more of it, and Noah appears perfectly positioned to help China’s newest millionaires amass even more cash.

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Buffett trims fat from portfolio (BAC, NKE, FISV, LOW)

Interestingly, Berkshire wasn’t the only investment company to shift capital out of banks. Trian Partners made the same bet in order to focus on food stocks.

We got a glimpse at Warren Buffett’s recent investment moves with Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s (NYSE:BRK.B) 13F filing, which details the company’s stock trades through the end of 2010. Most notably, the Oracle of Omaha ditched 5 million shares in Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC).

“He’s closing out a loser,” Jeff Matthews, author of ‘Pilgrimage to Warren Buffett’s Omaha’ told Bloomberg. “We bought it during the crisis. But its earnings power coming out the crisis has been reduced.”

Buffett took a loss of more than 55 percent on the trade after purchasing the shares during the height of the mortgage crisis. Some analysts see the move out of BAC as a sign that Buffett’s cleaning house as he prepares to hand over the reins to a group of successors.

Other positions Berkshire closed out last year:

  • Becton Dickinson & Co. (NYSE:BDX)
  • Comcast Corp. (NYSE:CMCSA)
  • Fiserv Inc. (NYSE:FISV)
  • Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE:LOW)
  • Nalco Holding Co. (NYSE:NLC)
  • Nestle (NSRGY.PK)
  • Nike Inc. (NYSE:NKE)

Berkshire now holds positions in just 25 companies. That’s down from 37 in June, according to NewsyStocks.com. Interestingly, Berkshire wasn’t the only investment company to shift capital out of banks.

Trian Partners, which is headed by widely-followed investor Nelson Peltz, ditched stakes in Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) and U.S. Bancorp, (NYSE: USB), according to BizJournals.com, to make a big bet on food stocks, specifically Kellogg’s (NYSE: K).

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Bank of America (BAC) to rise 50 percent per year over next three years?

WikiLeaks or not, I remain bullish on Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) as the Fed’s money-printing policies make it easy for lending institutions to profit on near-zero percent interest rates.

Despite a recent downgrade of Bank of America Corporation (NYSE:BAC) stock by Keefe Bruyette Woods, analyst Richard Bove of Rochdale Securities has called for BAC to hit $32 per share in three years. That’s a downward revision of Bove’s May prediction for banking stocks when he said shares in Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) and BAC could sextuple by 2015.

“While his official price target is $19.25, he also states in the report that he believes Bank of America will ‘more likely’ return to its historical price of 1.5 times book value, which would be $32,” BusinessInsider.com reports.

Shares in Bank of America have markedly underperformed Citigroup over the past six months as news sources speculate BAC could be the target of an upcoming WikiLeaks document release. Bank of America shares have lost 20.5 percent in value since June, while Citigroup shares are up more than 17 percent.

WikiLeaks or not, I remain bullish on banks as the Fed’s money-printing policies make it easy for lending institutions to profit on near-zero percent interest rates.

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Three reasons to move back into Bank of America’s stock (BAC)

Bank of America (BAC) has a net worth of $230 billion and a market cap of just $119 billion. After falling some 12 percent over the past three months, the stock is truly starting to look like a value play, even with the specter of negative press having over its head.

Bank of America Corporation (NYSE:BAC) was one of the major banks to benefit from a sector-wide upgrade by Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) last week. Goldman Sachs argues that banks “will deliver market-leading earnings growth” in each of the next two years and likely raise dividends soon, according to Investor’s Business Daily. Here then are three more reasons to take another look at BAC:

1) BAC’s stock has gotten beaten down by negative news including speculation that it will be the rogue bank named in an upcoming document dump by WikiLeaks. According to its most recent quarterly report, BAC has a net worth of $230 billion and a market cap of just $119 billion. After falling some 12 percent over the past three months, the stock is truly starting to look like a value play, even with the specter of negative press having over its head.

2) Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke comments over the weekend on a widely-watched 60 Minutes interview showed that the Fed is not opposed to the idea of a QEIII or QEIV. Bernanke argues that fears over inflation are overblown, and he’s signaling that the money-printing spigot isn’t going to be shut off anytime soon. It’s hard for banks NOT to make money in that environment. Negative press doesn’t much matter if Bank of America is making hoards of cash.

3) One of these days, in theory, BAC’s ill-fated purchase of Countrywide Financial for $4 billion just might pay off. Losses are still mounting on the deal, but the bank is trying to meet them head-on by assigning some 20,000 employees to its loan modification division. If they can start generating income from Countrywide loans, they’ll be in a much better position. The controversial move vaulted Bank of America from sixth place to No. 1 in mortgage originations in U.S. They’re a mega bank, and one of these days, the company’s earnings will reflect that.

Top five biggest bank stocks in the U.S. by market cap

The roiling financial markets in the U.S. have knighted new winners and demoted the old guard. What are the top five biggest banks in America?

The roiling financial markets in the U.S. have knighted new winners and demoted the old guard. What are the top five biggest banks in America?

Bank of America Corporation (NYSE:BAC) $132 billion
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) $149 billion
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC) $129 billion
Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) $111 billion
Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS) $72 billion