Credit Card Stocks Hit 52-Week Highs: MA, V

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Shares of credit card companies Mastercard ( MA) and Visa ( V) hit 52-week highs on Monday.

"MasterCard (MA, $419.86, Buy) released quarter-to-date processed volume metrics this morning (normalized for the extra leap day in February), providing an additional data point supporting the health of card spending," Jefferies analysts wrote in a March 13 report. "Processed US volumes grew 14% QTD vs. 11.5% in 4Q (ahead of January growth of 13%); ROW processed volumes increased 17% QTD vs. 18.6% in 4Q (in-line with January ROW processed volume growth of 17%); and global processed transactions grew 26% QTD vs. 23.2% in 4Q (slightly ahead of January's 25% growth rate - see Exhibit 2)." The analysts added, "We maintain our Buy rating on V and MA as both networks enjoy secular tailwinds, an enduring competitive moat, and highly visible midteens EPS growth."

Shares of Mastercard hit a 52-week high Monday of $433.89. The stock's 52-week low of $247.83 was set on March 28.

Mastercard shares trade at an estimated price-to-earnings ratio of 16.77X; the average for consumer financial companies is 10.34X. For comparison, American Express ( AXP) and Capital One ( COF) both have lower forward P/Es of 12.3X and 8.2X, respectively.

Twenty-seven of the 38 analysts who cover Mastercard rate it at buy; 11 analysts give the stock a hold rating.

TheStreet Ratings gives Mastercard a B grade with a buy rating and $550.66 price target. The stock has risen 16.77% year to date.

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Visa

"Earlier, Visa (V, $116.53, Buy) released February volume metrics showing continued strength in consumer spending, with US credit vols growing 11% y/y (15% ex-leap day adjustment), vs. 10% in Jan. and 9.7% in F1Q; US debit volumes growing 4% y/y (7% ex-leap day adjustment) vs. 4% in Jan. and 5.9% in F1Q; and global processed transactions increasing 8% y/y (11% ex-leap day adjustment) vs. 9% in Jan, and 8.1% in F1Q," Jefferies analysts wrote in a March 13 report. "We note February's results continue to provide evidence of Durbin Amendment impacts on Visa's US debit volumes, a trend we expect to continue though '12."

Shares of Visa hit a 52-week high Monday of $120.70. The stock's 52-week low of $71.75 was set on March 29.

Visa's stock trades at a forward P/E of 17.13.

Thirty-three of the 42 analysts who cover Visa rate it at buy; nine analysts give the stock a hold rating.

TheStreet Ratings gives Visa an A grade with a buy rating and $153.93 price target. The stock has risen 18.38% year to date.

-- Written by Alexandra Zendrian in New York.

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