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Barclays PLC Is Starting To Gather Momentum

I spent a lot of last year pointing out that share price falls had sucked Barclays (LSE: BARC) (NYSE: BCS.US) into bargain territory.

But every time the stock started to rev its engines, it stalled.

Mis-selling scandals, rate fixing, the ‘dark pool’ fraud nightmare, bonus bust-ups, currency rigging and the uncertain global recovery conspired to throw the share price into reverse.

2014 was just one false start after another.

Ready, Steady…

Lately, there are encouraging signs of forward motion. Barclays is up 18% over three months, and 10% in the last month alone.

Given that this is a banking stock, anything could happen next. But momentum seems to be building.

I’m not the only one to think this way. Morgan Stanley has just picked out Barclays (and Lloyds Banking Group) as the go-to UK banks for investors now.

It reckons the banking sector will start to “play catch-up” as the stabilising oil price and as eurozone QE reduce deflationary fears, and fears over net interest margins and capital needs recede.

Lucky Numbers

Trading at a forecast 10 times earnings for December, Barclays doesn’t look expensive, especially earnings per share expected to rise 27% this year.

Today’s yield of 2.5% is expected to touch 3.6% by year end. By the end of 2016, the yield should hit 4.5%.

As the prospect of a base rate hike recedes ever further into the distance, Barclays offers the prospect of a high and rising income.

Transformer

Management has been restructuring in recent years, and the new leaner operation should help drive shareholder returns.

Last year, the bank announced it would cut 19,000 jobs by 2016, to help lift its return on equity above 12%. Now it looks set to deliver £250 million more in savings than expected, on top of the £3 billion liberated by its Transform programme.

Even a fresh bout of dark pool fraud allegations have failed to knock investor appetite. Neither did news of a Financial Conduct Authority probe into the investment banking sector, nor the recent Standard & Poor’s two-notch downgrade to BBB.

It seems the endless stream of scandalous allegations are already worked into bank share prices.

Buy Barclays

Barclays’ recent momentum was helped by Investec singling it out as its preferred UK bank, citing its strengthened capital and leveraged position.

Trading at 0.8 times 2014 estimate tangible net asset value, it is also the cheapest bank.

At 262p, Barclays is just a whisker from its 52-week high of 266p, and 30% above its low of 200p. That’s another feature of momentum stocks, they’re trading at year highs rather than year lows.

When I first highlighted Barclays’ bounceback potential, it was a contrarian suggestion. Not anymore.

Investec, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup all now hail it as a buy, Goldman Sachs names it as a conviction buy.

Well, I reckon it’s a buy, too. Just as I did one year ago.

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Harvey Jones has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.