U.S. Bancorp Making Its Way to $40

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- For more than a year I've sung the praises of U.S. Bancorp's ( USB) consistent operational performance, which in my opinion had gone underappreciated by investors who were more enamored with growth.

I won't disagree there's considerably more "flair" associated with the likes of Bank of America ( BAC) and Citigroup ( C). But they also come with an equal amount of risk. I don't believe in substituting "high profile" for fundamental metrics such as operating margin, earnings per share and return on equity -- areas where U.S. Bancorp has consistently outperformed. After another solid earnings report, shares of this bank still look cheap.

After having studied the results of the "big four" banks, which include JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) and Wells Fargo ( WFC), it became clear that revenue growth was a struggle across the entire sector.

So it came as no surprise that U.S. Bancorp posted a 2.4% revenue decline. Relative to expectations, I would say the performance wasn't that bad, especially since the bank improved revenue by 1.5% sequentially, which was on par with both Citigroup and JPMorgan.

As with Bank of America and Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp seemed to have had a hard time this quarter with mortgage lending, which led to slight decline in net interest income (NII). But unlike Bank of America, which posted 4% decline in fees, U.S. Bancorp was able to offset its net interest income weakness with a 5% sequential increase in fees.

What's more, amid a highly competitive banking market where everyone is scrounging for loan growth, it should not be taken for granted that U.S. Bancorp was able to post 5.2% year-over-year growth in average total loans, which grew by more than $11 billion. That number is 2% better when excluding covered loans on the bank's run-off portfolio.

What this tells me is that U.S. Bancorp is doing better than just holding its own against Bank of America and JPMorgan in commercial lending, which grew 11% year over year. If there was any cause for concern or a minor red flag, I would point to the 4% sequential increase in operating expenses, which missed Street expectations.

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