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Regional Banks: Financial Losers

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Regions Financial (RF - Get Report) of Birmingham, Ala., was the loser among large U.S. banks on Thursday, with shares sliding 2.5% to close at $9.88.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 (SPX.X) ended with gains of over 1%, while the Nasdaq Composite was up 2%, following comments late on Wednesday from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, indicating his strong support for continued economic stimulus by the central bank. During a question-and-answer session following his speech discussing the most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting, Bernanke said a "highly accommodative monetary policy for the foreseeable future is what's needed in the U.S. economy."

The Federal Reserve has kept the short-term federal funds rate in a range of zero to 0.25% since late 2008. Since September, the Fed has been making monthly purchases of $85 billion in long-term securities, in an effort to hold long-term rates down. The market has anticipated a tapering of the central bank's balance sheet expansion, sending the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds to 2.60% Thursday afternoon, from 1.70% at the end of April.

The yield on the 10-year was down from 2.70% the previous day, which along with the strong overall market action showed Bernanke's words had a soothing effect on investors.

The Department of Labor on Friday said initial unemployment in the U.S. during the week ended July 6 totaled 360,000, increasing from an upwardly revised 344,000 the previous week, and exceeding the consensus estimate among economists polled by Thomson Reuters by 20,000. This development may have lent support to Bernanke's words, in the eyes of market players.

For large U.S regional banks, the story was different, with shares of Comerica (CMA) of Dallas, KeyCorp (KEY) of Cleveland and SunTrust (STI - Get Report) of Atlanta all showing 2% declines.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Get Report) and Wells Fargo (WFC - Get Report) will kick off earnings season for the nation's largest financial institutions early Friday. Investors will be focusing on executives' comments on how they expect their companies to perform during the second half of 2013 as the yield curve steepens.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters on average estimate JPMorgan will report second-quarter earnings of $1.44 a share, declining from $1.59 in the first quarter, but increasing from $1.21 during the second quarter of 2012, when CEO James Dimon first announced the firm's "London Whale" hedge trading losses.

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