Financial Stocks Helping Pace Market Rally; AIG Inching Higher After Boosting Stock-Buyback Program

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Financial stocks were higher this afternoon, with the NYSE Financial Sector Index climbing 0.7 % and the S&P Financial 100 Index adding 0.7%.

In company news, American International Group ( AIG ) was narrowly higher Friday, easing from an earlier advance to a new post-financial crisis high after the insurer and financial-services company late Thursday authorized another $2 billion for its stock-buyback program. Analysts at Barclays also raised their price target for the stock by $8 to $64 a share.

The research shop maintained its Overweight rating for the stock.

Since the end of Q1 on March 31, AIG said its has re-purchased around $418 million of its shares, leaving just $120 million available under the company's previous authorization.

Reaction to the move elsewhere on Wall Street was less enthusiastic, however, with Sterne Agee analyst John Nadel saying the authorization amount was "modestly disappointing" given AIG's free cash flow as well as the $3 billion generated by the sale of its former International Lease Finance Corporation unit.

"We continue to believe many investors are not taking into account sufficiently management's consistent commentary that the pace of capital deployment will be measured," Nadel wrote, noting stock buybacks at AIG have averaged around $500 million during each of the past three quarters.

AIG shares were ahead about 0.8% at $55.25 each in mid-day trade, earlier rising to a session high of $58.44 a share, the stock's best level since its December 2008 collapse. Over the past 12 months, the stock has risen slightly more than 24%.

In other sector news,

(+) PAY, (+7.4%) Q2 EPS of $0.37 beats by $0.05 per share. Revenue rises 8.6% year over year to $467 mln, topping estimates by $23.58 mln. Issues downside Q3 earnings outlook. Also, Piper Jaffray raises price target by $5 to $36 a share.

(+) BAC, (+1.3%) Reportedly may have to pay more than $12 billion to settle mortgage-related investigations.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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