Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Whither COF?

Ever since the onset of the credit crisis, it seemed like only a matter of time before problems in the area of home mortgages and HELOCs inevitably spread to credit cards. Given that Capital One Financial (COF) has dipped heavily into the subprime borrower market, it seems to reason that COF will be a large part of the collateral damage.

So far, COF has been able to keep charge offs at a manageable rate, one that was stable at 6.1% in March and April. This leveling off of the charge-offs in the most recent month prompted Goldman Sachs analyst Brian Foran to offer optimistically, “any sign that credit deterioration in U.S. card could be taking a breather is positive.”

COF’s stock is currently 30% above the January low and has traded in an ascending triangle, as the chart below shows. While the stock is up this morning, it is testing the bottom of the triangle pattern. Ominously, on balance volume shows a significant divergence from the price pattern, with at least three significant distribution days (down on above average volume) over the past four weeks.

While XLF, XBD, C and LEH are all important indicators of the health of the financial sector, keep an eye on COF to see how the credit crisis is affecting subprime credit card holders.

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