The bank reported last month fourth-quarter earnings of $40 million, or 23 cents a share, topping year-earlier earnings of $34 million, or 20 cents."At 13.5x '12 EPS, we see valuations as fair, but achievability of outer-year estimates could differentiate names as the Fed's extension of "lowerfor- longer" is assessed," Jefferies analysts wrote in a Jan. 27 report. They added, "Our top picks are PNC and STI in larger regionals and ASBC, FMBI, FNFG, SUSQ, and WAL in smid-caps." Associated Banc-Corp was upgraded to a buy from a hold by TheStreet Ratings. Of the 18 analysts who cover the company, 12 rated it a hold. Five analysts considered Associated Banc-Corp a buy and one rated it a sell. Associated Banc-Corp has a forward P/E of 12.95. The average for banks is 14.27. First Niagara (FNFG) and Zions (ZION) have lower P/Es of 8.93 and 9.72, respectively. TheStreet Ratings gives Associated Banc-Corp a B- grade with a $15.11 price target. The stock closed Monday at $12.95 and has risen 15.94% year to date. >>To see these stocks in action, visit the 6 Stocks With Upgrades portfolio on Stockpickr. -- Written by Alexandra Zendrian
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