NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The consumer finance sector could be a good area for investors to find solid prospects in these volatile times.

"We'd use the volatility around Greece to build positions in the card stocks," according to a Citigroup (C) - Get Report research note on Friday. "While there are global hot spots to worry about, we believe the U.S. consumer remains healthy, keeping us constructive. Heading into Q2 earnings, we generally expect in-line results."

The Citi analysts favor Capital One Financial (COF) - Get Report given its [interest rate] rate "sensitivity and card loan growth," the note said, as well as Synchrony Financial (SYF) - Get Report. However the analysts have some wariness when it comes to American Express (AXP) - Get Report.

Capital One and American Express are both top rated as per TheStreet Ratings. (It does not rate Synchrony Financial.) Check out three more consumer finance stocks that are buys. And when you're done be sure to check out Goldman Sachs' (GS) - Get Report four favorite bank stocks ahead of earnings.

TheStreet Ratings, TheStreet's proprietary ratings tool, projects a stock's total return potential over a 12-month period including both price appreciation and dividends. Based on 32 major data points, TheStreet Ratings uses a quantitative approach to rating over 4,300 stocks to predict return potential for the next year. The model is both objective, using elements such as volatility of past operating revenues, financial strength, and company cash flows, and subjective, including expected equities market returns, future interest rates, implied industry outlook and forecasted company earnings.

Buying an S&P 500 stock that TheStreet Ratings rated a "buy" yielded a 16.56% return in 2014 beating the S&P 500 Total Return Index by 304 basis points. Buying a Russell 2000 stock that TheStreet Ratings rated a "buy" yielded a 9.5% return in 2014, beating the Russell 2000 index, including dividends reinvested, by 460 basis points last year.

Note:Year-to-date returns are based on July 10, 2015 closing prices.

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AXP

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5. American Express Co. (AXP) - Get Report
Market Cap: $78.5 billion
Year-to-date return: -17%
Rating: Buy, B

American Express Company, together with its subsidiaries, provides charge and credit payment card products and travel-related services to consumers and businesses worldwide. The company operates through four segments: U.S. Card Services, International Card Services, Global Commercial Services, and Global Network & Merchant Services.

TheStreet Said: "We rate AMERICAN EXPRESS CO (AXP) a BUY. This is driven by multiple strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its increase in net income, growth in earnings per share, attractive valuation levels and notable return on equity. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly outperformed against the S&P 500 and exceeded that of the Consumer Finance industry average. The net income increased by 6.5% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $1,432.00 million to $1,525.00 million.
  • Regardless of the drop in revenue, the company managed to outperform against the industry average of 9.6%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 2.9%. The declining revenue has not hurt the company's bottom line, with increasing earnings per share.
  • AMERICAN EXPRESS CO has improved earnings per share by 11.3% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. However, we anticipate underperformance relative to this pattern in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, AMERICAN EXPRESS CO increased its bottom line by earning $5.55 versus $4.88 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 1.0% in earnings ($5.50 versus $5.55).
  • The company's current return on equity has slightly decreased from the same quarter one year prior. This implies a minor weakness in the organization. When compared to other companies in the Consumer Finance industry and the overall market, AMERICAN EXPRESS CO's return on equity exceeds that of the industry average and significantly exceeds that of the S&P 500.
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ECPG

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4. Encore Capital Group Inc. (ECPG) - Get Report
Market Cap: $1.1 billion 
Year-to-date return: -2.3%
Rating: Buy, B

Encore Capital Group, Inc., a specialty finance company, together with its subsidiaries, provides debt recovery solutions for consumers and property owners across a range of financial assets worldwide. The company operates in two segments, Portfolio Purchasing and Recovery, and Tax Liens.

TheStreet Said: "We rate ENCORE CAPITAL GROUP INC (ECPG) a BUY. This is driven by several positive factors, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, attractive valuation levels and good cash flow from operations. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally high debt management risk by most measures that we evaluated."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 9.6%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 12.6%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • ENCORE CAPITAL GROUP INC has improved earnings per share by 31.7% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, ENCORE CAPITAL GROUP INC increased its bottom line by earning $3.83 versus $2.93 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($5.15 versus $3.83).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Consumer Finance industry. The net income increased by 26.9% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $23.18 million to $29.43 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 848.35% to $19.39 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, ENCORE CAPITAL GROUP INC has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -37.89%.
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CACC

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3. Credit Acceptance Corp. (CACC) - Get Report
Market Cap: $5.2 billion
Year-to-date return: 83.7%
Rating: Buy, A-

Credit Acceptance Corporation provides automobile dealers financing programs, and related products and services that enable them to sell vehicles to consumers.

TheStreet Said: "We rate CREDIT ACCEPTANCE CORP (CACC) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, notable return on equity, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income and good cash flow from operations. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally high debt management risk by most measures that we evaluated."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 9.6%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 9.8%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • CREDIT ACCEPTANCE CORP reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, CREDIT ACCEPTANCE CORP increased its bottom line by earning $12.01 versus $10.59 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($14.12 versus $12.01).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Consumer Finance industry. The net income increased by 43.6% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $49.80 million to $71.50 million.
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Consumer Finance industry and the overall market, CREDIT ACCEPTANCE CORP's return on equity significantly exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $117.40 million or 25.56% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, CREDIT ACCEPTANCE CORP has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -37.89%.
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PRAA

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2. PRA Group Inc. (PRAA) - Get Report
Market Cap: $3.1 billion
Year-to-date return: 9.9%
Rating: Buy, A

PRA Group, Inc., a financial and business service company, engages in the purchase, collection, and management of portfolios of defaulted consumer receivables in North America and Europe.

TheStreet Said: "We rate PRA GROUP INC (PRAA) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, growth in earnings per share, increase in net income, notable return on equity and good cash flow from operations. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company is trading at a premium valuation based on our review of its current price compared to such things as earnings and book value."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 9.6%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 26.4%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • PRA GROUP INC has improved earnings per share by 46.9% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, PRA GROUP INC increased its bottom line by earning $3.49 versus $3.45 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($4.88 versus $3.49).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Consumer Finance industry. The net income increased by 42.3% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $40.84 million to $58.14 million.
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Consumer Finance industry and the overall market, PRA GROUP INC's return on equity exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $63.98 million or 29.90% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, PRA GROUP INC has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -37.89%.
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COF

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1. Capital One Financial Corp. (COF) - Get Report
Market Cap: $48 billion
Year-to-date return: 6.2%
Rating: Buy, A

Capital One Financial Corporation operates as the bank holding company for the Capital One Bank (USA), National Association (COBNA); and Capital One, National Association (CONA), which provide various financial products and services in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

TheStreet Said: "We rate CAPITAL ONE FINANCIAL CORP (COF) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, solid stock price performance and growth in earnings per share. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat disappointing return on equity."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 9.6%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 4.7%. This growth in revenue appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, improving the earnings per share.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is somewhat low, currently at 0.90, and is less than that of the industry average, implying that there has been a relatively successful effort in the management of debt levels.
  • The stock has risen over the past year as investors have generally rewarded the company for its earnings growth and other positive factors like the ones we have cited in this report. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, it goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.
  • CAPITAL ONE FINANCIAL CORP's earnings per share improvement from the most recent quarter was slightly positive. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, CAPITAL ONE FINANCIAL CORP increased its bottom line by earning $7.59 versus $7.27 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($7.69 versus $7.59).
  • The change in net income from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Consumer Finance industry average. The net income has decreased by 0.1% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, dropping from $1,154.00 million to $1,153.00 million.