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Regional Banks: Earnings Preview

Stocks in this article: PNCBBTFITB

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's time for the regional banks to move to center stage, and investor concerns about their results aren't likely to change much from what Wall Street has prioritized when it comes to their bigger brethren: Credit quality is king.

PNC Financial Services (PNC), Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB), Keycorp (KEY) and Capital One (COF) are among the institutions slated to report their fourth-quarter numbers on Thursday, and signs of improvement in loan loss trends in both the consumer and commercial sectors will be of paramount importance when the press releases hit the wire.

The four main money-center banks -- JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citigroup (C), Bank of America (BAC), and Wells Fargo (WFC) -- have already reported their numbers, as have a good number of other high profile names such as Bank of New York Mellon (BK), Northern Trust (NTRS), State Street (STT) and U.S. Bancorp (USB).

A few regional-tier banks, including M&T Bank (MTB), Marshall & Ilsley (MI) and smaller banks, First Horizon (FHN) and Hudson City Bancorp (HCBK), have also released their quarterly results, and many more will be doing so during the remainder of this week and the next.

So far, the numbers have shown that -- while costs are still at record levels and continuing to rise -- credit costs are finally showing signs of stabilizing. In particular, of the banks that have reported so far, there is evidence that the overall growth in nonperforming loans and early stage delinquencies is beginning to slow.

For example, First Horizon, a Memphis, Tenn.-based regional bank with large exposure to residential mortgages, reported a wider than expected loss for the quarter on Friday, but said that the growth in non-performing assets and charge-offs had slowed for the third and second consecutive quarters, respectively.

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