(American Express and other stock prices brought current in this update.)
NEW YORK (
was among the top performers of the financial sector Thursday after an analyst upgraded the stock to a buy rating following a 15% drop in share price this month.
shares rose after Sandler O'Neill analyst Michael Taiano upgraded the stock to buy from hold, citing the recent pullback in the stock. Taiano highlighted other positives for the credit-card issuer, including a sharp rebound in discretionary spending trends and "favorable" leading indicators for credit performance.
"Overall, we think the severity of the financial crisis has forced management to refocus on better monetizing the company's core strengths," Taiano wrote in a research note Thursday. He also trimmed the firm's price target for American Express to $48 from $51, citing uncertainty stemming from sovereign debt issues and regulatory changes.
Lately, American Express shares were up $1.71, or 4.5%, to $39.88.
Meanwhile, U.S. bank stocks followed the broader market higher after China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange, which manages the country's $2.5 trillion foreign reserves, denied a news report that it is reviewing its holdings of
, citing unidentified banking sources, said SAFE officials met recently with foreign bankers to discuss eurozone debt. "This report is groundless," the agency said on its Web site. "The European market in the past, present and future always will be one of the major investment markets for the State Administration of Foreign exchange."
U.S. bank stocks jumped on the statement.
climbed 3.6% to $4,
Bank of America
rose 3.3% to $15.98,
added 3% to $39.93, and
was up 3% to $144.12.
In other Citigroup news, the Treasury Department said late Wednesday it raised $6.2 billion from the sale of 1.5 billion shares of Citigroup. Separately, Activist investor William Ackman of
said at an investor conference that his firm recently purchased 150 million shares of Citigroup.
American International Group
is looking to divest its consumer finance unit
American General Finance
in an effort to raise funds to repay the U.S. government,
The Financial Times
has hired Bank of America/Merrill Lynch to restructure and sell AGF, the report said, citing people close to the situation. Potential buyers, which include private-equity funds and financial groups, have been asked to submit their expressions of interest over the next few weeks, one person involved in the process told the
AIG shares were rising 6.3% go $36.19.
jumped 9.7% to $15.91 following a report by
The Wall Street Journal
that the insurer is negotiating with AIG to lower the price it will pay for the U.S. insurer's Asian unit from $35.5 billion.
Elsewhere, shares of
slipped 0.6% to $20.76 after hedge fund manager
of Greenlight Capital said at an investor conference Wednesday that he is bearish on the ratings agency because of its short-term approach to credit assessments.
, which owns Moody's rival Standard & Poor's, rose 1.1% to $28.30.
-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston
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