The broad indices all ended with losses, following European and Asian markets lower, after China's General Administration of Customs on Sunday said the country's exports dropped 18.1% in February from a year earlier, following an increase of 10.6% in January. With imports rising 10.1% in February, China had a $23 billion trade deficit in February.
Also on Sunday, Japan's government made a downward revision to the country's fourth-quarter GDP growth rate to an annual rate of 0.7% from 1.0%.
Back home, the economic calendar was light.
Must Read: Bank Stocks Keep Rising, Led by KeyCorp
We just aren't strong enough not to care. One day we will be, though, and I say that only because Europe's hanging in today, and Europe had always rolled over on poor China numbers because so much of the Chinese export market is taken by the Europeans. Somehow that has always translated into Europe being weakened by China - and not vice versa - but the futures guys who control this stuff have never been keen on real causality.
The KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) rose slightly to 71.37.
Shares of Regions Financial of Birmingham, Ala., have returned 10% this year, following a 40% return during 2013. The shares trade for 1.4 times their reported Dec. 31 tangible book value of $7.54, and for 11.7 times the consensus 2015 earnings estimate of 93 cents a share, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The consensus 2014 EPS estimate is 86 cents.
Please see TheStreet's earnings coverage for detailed coverage of the bank's fourth-quarter performance.
Bank stock investors eyes are pointed toward March 20, when the Federal Reserve will announce the results of its annual stress tests on 30 bank holding companies with total assets exceeding $50 billion. An even more important announcement will come on March 26, when the Fed will announce the results of its annual Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) for the same banks. Following that announcement, most of the big banks are expected to announce dividend increases and their plans for share buybacks from the second quarter of 2014 through the first quarter of 2015.
KBW analyst Christopher Mutascio estimates Regions will receive approval to increase its quarterly dividend to 5 cents a share from 3 cents, while also gaining approval for up to $395 million in common-share buybacks. Following the 2013 CCAR, Regions was approved for $350 million in buybacks.
Mutascio rates Regions "market perform," with a price target of $11.00.Follow @PhilipvanDoorn