Updated from 12:37 p.m. EDT
Financial stocks were mixed in relatively light trading Friday as the extraordinary Week of the Rate Cut wound down.
Among the winners was Californian insurer
, which was upped to outperform at Piper Jaffray. Shares gained 2% to close at $33.12, in support of the
Financial Sector Index, which was up 26.7 points, or 0.3%, to 9219.63.
Also propping up the tracker were
, up 5.3% to $76.05; specialist firm
, up 9.4% to $5.13; and broker
, which tacked on 3.2% to close at $209.98 a day after issuing
better-than-expected third-quarter earnings.
But one of the sector's biggest price gainers was
, a small Minnesota-based insurer. Shares rocketed nearly 50% after Rockhill Holding agreed to buy it for $12.45 a share in cash -- a 53.7% premium to its latest closing price. The deal, valued at around $67.6 million, should close at or before year-end. Shares were up $3.90 to $12.
On the losing side, the KBW Bank Index felt some pressure after Merrill Lynch said the banking-sector rebound will be "modest and short-lived," projecting that the sector will underperform the
through early 2008 as bank-credit quality continues to deteriorate "significantly" through next year. The KBW tracker was down 0.2% at 108.48.
downgraded KBW tracker members
, slapping sell stickers on the former two and lowering Wells to neutral from buy. The banks eased 2.8%, 1.4%, and 0.9%, respectively.
In more negative analyst research, Friedman Billings cut
Nasdaq Stock Market
to market perform from outperform. The analyst said that Nasdaq might still have to raise its bid for Nordic exchange OMX, even after
striking a deal with Borse Dubai that reduces the risk thereof. Shares slid 91 cents, or 2.5%, to $35.60.
And credit-services concern
tumbled 9.1% after saying it will close 103 of its locations, largely in Oregon and Pennsylvania, citing legal issues in those two states and underperformance elsewhere. The Spartanburg, S.C., company projects closing costs of roughly $4.6 million, with the chance of another $1.5 million worth if it's forced to close its remaining 67 Pennsylvania centers. Shares were off $1.05 to close at $10.44.