This week, investors loaded-up on Barclays (LSE: BARC), Tesco (LSE: TSCO) and Vodafone (LSE: VOD).
This week, banks were indisputably in demand, with the most popular 'buy' by the retail clients of stockbroker TD Direct Investing between the market's opening on Monday and today at noon being Lloyds Banking (LSE: LLOY).
But is it a bargain? Up over 50% this year on the back of a persistent trickle of good news from ‑‑ and about ‑‑ the beleaguered bank, Lloyds has been a popular pick with investors betting that the worst is behind it, and that dividend payments will be resumed next year.
That said, yesterday's uncompromising 'sell' downgrading by analysts at Investec may have brought the party to an end. As these words are written, Lloyds is down 4% from its 52-week peak reached earlier in the week.
Barclays (LSE: BARC), the second-most popular 'buy' this week by the broker's private clients, may turn out to be a safer pick, having been the beneficiary of a number of broker upgrades in the last month.
Granted, yesterday's news that the bank was putting aside another £700 million in relation to claims for payment protection insurance might have taken the edge off the share's allure, especially if it pushes the bank into an overall loss when results are announced on 31 October.
But in the meantime, with the bank down 50% against the FTSE 100 (UKX) over a five-year period, and the worst of the recession and banking crisis seemingly behind us, both traders and investors with a longer-term perspective are likely to be seeing more upside than downside.
A clearer picture emerges with Tesco (LSE: TSCO), the third-most popular pick by the broker's private clients between the market's opening on Monday and today at noon. Heavily bought in the past few weeks following lacklustre results, which saw 30p lopped off the share price, Tesco this week benefited from an upgrade, with UBS waving the 'buy' flag and putting a target share price of 370p on the company.
With the shares on a rating of just nine times forecast earnings, and offering a 5% forecast yield, an upgrade and 'buy' rating may be superfluous to investors with an eye for a bargain. But, as they say, every little helps.
Fourth -- and last -- up: Vodafone (LSE: VOD), the fourth-most popular 'buy' by the broker's retail clients last week.
The impetus? Continued price weakness, which has seen the shares climb just 2% over the past year, while the FTSE 100 is up 8%. Rated on a market-average P/E of 10.6, the shares offer a whopping forecast dividend yield of 7.4%: no wonder Vodafone is popular with income investors.
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> Malcolm owns shares in Lloyds Banking and Tesco. The Motley Fool owns shares in Tesco. This TD Direct Investing list of Top Ten Buys should not be taken as a recommendation to buy any particular stock, and is simply an indication of the general buying trends amongst TD Direct Investing customers during the period stated.