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Three Small-Cap Financial Stocks Upgraded

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Bank of America (BAC) reports quarterly earnings today and Citigroup (C) on Monday, putting a focus on the performance of large-cap financial stocks.

TheStreet's equity model upgraded the following three small-cap financial shares, two of which have lagged behind stock-market benchmarks. They trade at discounts to rivals and offer yields as high as 5.8%, more than most large-cap financials.

3. The model upgraded TF Financial (THRD), a savings bank and mortgage lender, to "buy."

Quarter: Fourth-quarter profit more than doubled to $1.2 million, or 46 cents a share, as revenue declined 3.5%. The operating margin widened from 13% to 23%. TF has $13 million of cash and $80 million of debt, amounting to a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.1.

Stock: TF Financial has risen 1.5% during the past year, underperforming U.S. stock-market indices. It trades at a price-to-projected-earnings ratio of 9.6 and a price-to-book ratio of 0.7, 75% and 48% discounts to peer averages. The shares offer a 4.2% dividend yield.

Holders: No analysts cover TF Financial. Five of its 10 largest shareholders, four of whom are company insiders, increased their holdings during the fourth quarter. Two top shareholders retained the size of their positions and three decreased them.

2. The model upgraded insurer Hallmark Financial Services (HALL) to "buy."

Quarter: Hallmark swung to a fourth-quarter profit of $9.3 million, or 46 cents, from a loss of $2.4 million, or 12 cents, a year earlier. Revenue increased 22%. The operating margin stretched to 18%. Hallmark has $117 million of cash and $60 million of debt.

Stock: Hallmark has appreciated 43% during the past 12 months, more than the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 Index. It sells for a price-to-projected-earnings ratio of 10 and a price-to-book ratio of 0.9, 16% and 23% discounts to peer averages.

Consensus: Of analysts following Hallmark, two advise purchasing its shares and two recommend holding them. Piper Jaffray (PJC), which rates Hallmark "buy," expects the stock to advance 41% to $14. Keefe, Bruyette & Woods (KBW) thinks it will hit $10.

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