On Feb 21, Zacks Investment Research upgraded
Center Bancorp Inc.
) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).
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Why the Upgrade?
Center Bancorp has been witnessing rising earnings estimates
owing to strong fourth quarter 2012 results. Moreover, this
regional bank delivered positive earnings surprises in 3 of the
last 4 quarters with an average beat of 5.5%.
Center Bancorp reported fourth-quarter results on Jan 25.
Earnings per share came in at 27 cents, surpassing the year-ago
earnings of 20 cents by 35.0%. However, the earnings were a penny
below the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Results were primarily aided
by a solid net interest income growth and a fall in other
expenses, partially offset by a decline in fee income.
Net interest income jumped 12.4% year over year to $11.4 million.
Yet, other income declined 45.6% to $1.0 million. Total other
expenses marginally fell 0.5% year over year to $6.2 million.
Credit quality progressively improved at Center Bancorp.
Provision for loan losses plummeted 66.7% from the prior-year
quarter to $0.1 million. Similarly, as of Dec 31, 2012,
nonperforming assets were 0.31% of total loans, down 28 basis
points from the prior-year quarter.
The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 increased 7.1% to $1.20 per
share as the sole estimate was revised higher over the last 60
days. For 2014, the single estimate was revised up over the same
time frame, lifting the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 15.8% to
$1.32 per share.
Other Stocks to Consider
Besides Center Bancorp, other stock in the same sector like
First Financial Holdings Inc.
Riverview Bancorp Inc.
Meta Financial Group, Inc.
) carry a Zacks Rank #1 and are worth considering.