Shares of Wells Fargo (WFC) were up 4% last year, outperforming both the broader market and the overall financial sector. Erik Oja, equity analyst at S&P Capital IQ, said the megabank will shine even brighter in 2016 once higher interest rates kick in.
"We think Wells Fargo is best poised to benefit from higher rates due to its large deposit base and industry-leading loan growth," said Oja, adding that he expects much higher revenue growth in the coming year after a recent slowdown.
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Shares of Federated Investors (FII) fell approximately 9% in 2015, yet Oja expects a big turnaround in 2016, once again due to the prospect of higher rates ahead.
"The money market fund business, which is unprofitable now, should become more profitable as rates rise because Federated has to reimburse for the servicing fees for these funds," said Oja, who also admires the fund company's 3.5% dividend yield.
Oja added that Federated also has a "good core business of equity and fixed-income asset management."
Shares of Signature Bancorp (SBNY) were up over 27% last year, and Oja said the New York-based lender should post another impressive performance in 2016, primarily due to the talent it keeps hiring away from rival banks. He said Signature's strong position in New York City is also a selling point for the stock because of the area's fast-moving commercial real estate market.
"In periods of inflation, cities like New York, Washington and L.A. benefit the most," said Oja. "And New York, with foreign investors, benefits very strongly from these trends."
Finally, Oja is a fan of Synovus Financial (SNV) , up 27% in 2015, saying the Southeast regional bank has had a remarkable recovery since faltering in the 2008 financial crisis. He expects that recovery to continue.
"We think it could potentially be attractive as a take-over candidate. It's in a very attractive service territory centered around South Carolina," said Oja.