Top Financial Stocks
Financial stocks were broadly lower in recent trade, with the NYSE Financial Sector Index sinking slightly more than 1.2% while financial companies in the S&P 500 Index were falling almost 1.9%. The Philadelphia Housing Sector Index was down only 0.1%.
In economic news:
The Labor Department reported a 3,000 increase in first-time applications for unemployment benefits during the week ended March 17 to 229,000, compared with analyst calls for a 1,000-person drop to 225,000. Continuing claims fell by 57,000 during the week ended March 10 to a new multi-decade low of 1.828 million applicants.
The purchasing managers index for the American manufacturing sector slipped 0.2 points during March compared with prior month to 55.7, topping the Econoday consensus expecting a 55.4 flash score this month and staying at a three-year high. The services sector showed more volatility, however, falling to a 54.1 March reading from February's 55.9 score. Analysts had been expecting only a 0.2-point decline to 55.7 this month.
The index of leading indicators remained on solid ground in February, growing another 0.6% in February following January's revised 0.8% increase and easily outpacing the consensus view looking for just a 0.3% rise. The report found leading indicators were performing at their best levels in seven years, pointing to "robust" economic growth through 2018. The factory work-week, unemployment claims and ISM new orders led the index higher, with interest rates and consumer expectations also contributing to the positive momentum.
Also, many banks - including Deutsche Bank AG ( DB ), US Bancorp ( USB ), Webster Financial Corp ( WBS ), SunTrust Banks ( STI ), Citizens Financial Group ( CFG ), TCF Financial Corp (TCF), Wells Fargo (WFC) and Citigroup (C) - all said Thursday they were raising their prime lending rates by 25 basis points to 4.75% beginning Friday, March 22, in response the Federal Open Market Committee Wednesday increased the Federal Funds rate by the same amount to a range between 1.50% to 1.75%.
Among financial stocks moving on news:
- Alexandria Real Estate Equities (ARE) was little changed Thurday afternoon, erasing most of a nearly 0.5% decline earlier in the session, that followed the real estate investment trust this morning saying it has appointed Stephen Richardson and Peter Moglia as its co-chief executive officers, effective April 23. Moglia also will continue in his current role as chief investment officer at the firm while Richardson is moving up after serving as the company's chief operating officer since 2011.
In other sector news:
- S&T Bancorp (STBA) was narrowly underwater Thursday afternoon, with shares of the parent company for S&T Bank falling less than 1% to a session low of $41.36 apiece, after it authorized a new stock buyback program to repurchase and retire up to $50 million of its outstanding shares. The current authorization runs through Aug. 31, 2019, with S&T expecting to fund its repurchases using available cash on hand and other internally generated funds.
- Atlantic Coast Financial (ACFC) was extending its slow decline Thursday, recently falling more than 1% to a session low of $10.65 a share, with the bank holding company's stock receiving little apparent market support despite saying its shareholders voted to approve the proposed merger with Ameris Bancorp (ABCB). The deal is scheduled to close during Q2, subject to additional regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions.