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10 Most Profitable Bank Stocks (Update 1)

5. U.S. Bancorp

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Shares of U.S. Bancorp (USB - Get Report) are up 13% in January, with the bank continuing to outperform on loan growth.

The Minneapolis lender reported fourth-quarter earnings of $1.35 billion, or 69 cents a share, improving from $1.27 billion, or 64 cents a share, during the third quarter, and $974 million, or 49 cents a share, during the fourth quarter of 2010.

Return on Assets jumped to 1.50% in 2011 from 1.14% in 2010.

The bank has been gaining market share in commercial lending. Stifel Nicolaus analysts said the bank's fourth quarter performance was "the best combination of earnings quality and quantity" of any large bank in their coverage.

Analysts also praise the bank for its diversified revenue stream. "We would much rather purchase USB shares in a challenging operating environment (no rate hikes until late in 2014?), then chase some of the other regionals that have moved higher in recent weeks that we expect will not be able to generate the type profitability in a normalized earnings environment that USB is generating today," Stifel analyst Chris Mutascio wrote in a report.

The stock trades at about 10.4 times consensus estimates for 2012. 19 analysts rate the stock a buy or outperform, 13 have a hold rating while 2 analysts rate it a sell or underperform.

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