Then in February, Capital One expanded upon the theme of lower domestic credit card balances, announcing an agreement to sell its $7 billion portfolio of Best Buy ( BBY) credit cards to Citigroup ( C).

But Capital One could well be an excellent defensive play for investors right now, because it trades very cheaply to forward earnings, and because its core credit card offerings offer strong earnings potential. The stock has the lowest forward price-to-earnings ratio of the 24 components of the KBW Bank Index.

Interested in more on U.S. Bancorp? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.

-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.

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