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10 Midwest Bank Stocks Finally Paying Off

9. Associated Banc-Corp

Shares of Associated Banc-Corp (ASBC) of Green Bay, Wis., closed at $14.44 Friday, returning 30% year-to-date, following last year's 26% decline.

On February 15, the company raised its quarterly dividend to five cents, from a penny. Based on the new quarterly payout, the shares have a dividend yield of $1.39.

Associated earned $114.94 million, or 66 cents a share during 2011, improving from a net loss of $30.4 million, or 18 cents a share, in 2010, when the company recorded $390 million in provisions for loan losses. During 2011, total provisions for loan losses fell to $52 million.

The shares trade for 1.4 times tangible book value, and for 16 times the consensus 2012 earnings estimate of 92 cents a share. The consensus 2013 EPS estimate is $1.30.

At the KBW Boston Bank Conference on Feb. 29, Associated CEO Phil Flynn said the company in 2011 "grew loans 11% year over year and 17% growth in the commercial and business space," and that he expected the company's 2012 earnings to "significantly increase" over last year.

KBW analyst Christopher McGratty rates Associated Banc-Corp "Market Perform," with a $12 price target for the shares, but said on March 2 that the company "posted some of the best growth in the Midwest in 2011 (+11%), including 16% in Q4," and that for 2012, he expected "the positive momentum to continue," with loans expanding "an additional 12% this year, which is likely to vault the company near the top of the list in the Midwest from a growth perspective."

At the KBW conference, Associated indicated that with continued credit quality improvement, it was likely to see its 2012 provision for loan losses to be near zero, which, along with the growth, could provide a significant boost to earnings.

McGratty estimates that Associated will earn 95 cents a share during 2012, followed by 2013 EPS of a dollar.

Interested in more on Associated Banc-Corp? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.

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