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First Niagara: Another Margin Loser

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- First Niagara Financial Group (FNFG - Get Report) was the loser among the largest U.S. banks on Friday, with shares rising sliding 4% to close at $8.05.

The broad markets ended with slight gains, as earnings reports from technology companies continued, heading into the earnings announcement from Apple (AAPL), scheduled for after the market close. Shares of Google (GOOG - Get Report) rising 5.5% to close at $741.50 and IBM (IBM - Get Report) rising over 4% to close at $204.72, after both companies announced their fourth-quarter results.

Google on Wednesday morning reported fourth-quarter earnings of $10.65 a share, beating the consensus estimate of $10.49 a share, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The company said that its consolidated fourth-quarter revenues were up 36% year-over-year, to $14.42 billion.

IBM after Tuesday's market close reported fourth-quarter operating earnings of $5.39 a share, beating the consensus estimate of $5.25. The company's fourth-quarter revenue of $29.3 billion was down slightly from a year earlier, but came in ahead of the consensus estimate of $29.09 billion.

Jim Cramer said Wednesday that he would be a buyer of IBM right now.

Societe Generale analyst Richard Nguyen on Wednesday upgraded IBM to a "Hold" rating from a "Sell" rating, with a price target of $201, citing the "better than expected guidance for 2013" with the company forecasting operating EPS "to reach $16.7 at least, above current consensus expectations of $16.64 and [Nguyen's estimate of] $15.88." The analyst added that "IBM has delivered a solid performance overall in 2012 and is on track to reach its 2015 EPS target of $20 per share. While Services and Software have been in line with expectations, we were positively surprised by a better ramp-up with the new mainframe solution."

A Narrowing Margin in 2013

First Niagara Financial Group of Buffalo, N.Y., reported fourth-quarter operating net income of available to common shareholders of $67.8 million, or 19 cents a share, increasing from $66.5 million, or 19 cents a share, in the third quarter, but declining from $72.1 million, or 24 cents a share, during the fourth quarter of 2011.

Fourth-quarter operating EPS beat the consensus estimate by a penny.

The operating results excluded a pre-tax adjustment of $16 million "to accelerate premium amortization on its Collateralized Mortgage Obligations (CMO) portfolio," as well as $3.7 million in restructuring charges.
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