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Bank Stocks to Buy Now (Maybe)

With the company raising $339 million through an oversubscribed common stock offering in May, New York Community was still quite well capitalized as of Dec. 31, with a tier-1 leverage ratio of 7.84% and a risk-based capital ratio of 11.96%. In the company's fourth quarter earnings conference call, CEO Joseph Ficalora said "I'm very confident about the dividend we pay."

While New York Community remains a speculative play, the stock might turn out to be a bargain here for investors with intermediate- to long-term horizons, considering the strength of the core multifamily lending business, provided there are no big surprises in 2009.

Other Attractive Holding Companies

Several other holding companies on the list declined to apply for TARP money, while maintaining decent earnings and ending 2008 with low levels of exposure to problem assets.

People's United Bank's 15-cent quarterly dividend on common shares translated to a yield of 3.50% as of Tuesday's market close. While this yield isn't as attractive as the yields for Capital Federal Financial and Hudson City, People's United's price-to-book ratio was just 1.11 at Tuesday's close.

Commerce Bancshares (CBSH) of Kansas City's dividend yield of 2.99% appears safe. Shares had returned a negative 27% year-to-date as of Tuesday's close, with a 1-year negative return of 16%.

Finally, Cullen Frost Bankers (CFR) of San Antonio's price to book ratio was 1.36 at Tuesday's market close, with common shares yielding 4.26%.

Philip W. van Doorn joined Ratings., Inc., in February 2007. He is the senior analyst responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. He also comments on industry and regulatory trends. Mr. van Doorn has fifteen years experience, having served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Florida, and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Long Island University.
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