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10 Small Bank Stocks for Growth

6. ESSA Bancorp

Shares of ESSA Bancorp (ESSA) of Stroudsburg, Pa., closed at $12.63 Friday, down 1% from a year earlier. With a quarterly payout of 5 cents, the shares have a dividend yield of 1.58%.

Based on a consensus price target of $15.50, the shares have 23% upside potential.

The company had $1.1 billion in total assets as of December 31, with 18 offices in Monroe, Northampton and Lehigh Counties, in Pennsylvania

ESSA Bancorp earned $1 million, or 9 cents a share, during its first fiscal quarter ended December 31. For fiscal 2010, ended September 30, the company earned $4.5 million, or 36 cents a share. The consensus earnings estimates are 35 cents a share in fiscal 2011 and 37 cents a share in fiscal 2012.

After the fiscal first-quarter results were announced, Laurie Hunsicker of Stifel Nicolaus reiterated her buy rating for ESSA Bancorp with a price target of $16, saying that based on tangible book value, the shares were trading at a "discount relative to its Mid-Atlantic community bank peer group," and that ESSA was a "clean, over-capitalized bank that would continue to return capital to shareholders via dividends along with a solid share repurchase policy."

Both analysts covering ESSA Bancorp rate the shares a buy.

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