In 2018 the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) share price was the best performer of the big four banks, albeit with a decline of just over 10% excluding dividends.
If you include Australia’s biggest bank’s $4.31 per share dividend, this decline is reduced to approximately 4.5%.
Which considering the negative impacts of the Royal Commission, revelations that it breached anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws, and the downturn in the housing market, isn’t as bad as it could have been.
As a comparison, the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ASX: ANZ) share price fell 15%, the National Australia Bank Ltd (ASX: NAB) share price dropped 19%, and the Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) share price plunged 20% lower last year.
Should you buy Commonwealth Bank’s shares today?
While I think that all bank shares are arguably in the buy zone today and worth considering if your portfolio doesn’t already have meaningful exposure to the sector, Commonwealth Bank wouldn’t be my first pick.
Based on current valuations and dividend yields, I would put Commonwealth Bank towards the back of the pile right now.
Instead, I would sooner buy the shares of Westpac and then ANZ Bank.
Westpac is my preferred pick due to the fact that its shares have fallen hard over the last 12 months and are changing hands at just under 11x earnings, 1.3x book value, and offer a trailing fully franked 7.5% dividend yield.
But ANZ Bank isn’t far behind. Its solid business lending growth, low multiples, and generous dividend yield make it my next favourite. Its shares are trading at 11x estimated forward earnings, 1.2x book value, and offer a trailing fully franked 6.6% dividend yield.
When is the time to buy?
I feel that now is a good time to pick up shares whilst they are trading on lower than average multiples.
However, it is worth noting that the Royal Commission final report is due to be released on or before February 1. This may mean that bank shares trade in a holding pattern until the report has been released and recommendations have been made.
Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro owns shares of Westpac Banking. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of National Australia Bank Limited. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.