United Commercial Bank ( UCBH) was among few financial winners in a depressed Monday session as the sector stumbled on continued credit-crisis tremors. Shares of the San Francisco bank leapt 8.3% on word that China Minsheng Banking agreed to take a 9.9% stake in United in a two-part deal that should close within 2008. The firms might further agree to boost Misheng's stake to 20% by mid-2009 through secondary-share purchases and primary share issuance, with the latter to represent a premium of up to 15% over the prior 90-day closing price. United shares added $1.53 to $19.90. The NYSE Financial Sector Index, however, slid about 80 points, or 0.8%, to 9,630.64, as a number of its components were battered with analyst downgrades. Among these was Merrill Lynch ( MER), which lost 3.1% to $74.31 after both J.P. Morgan and Credit Suisse stripped their positive ratings off the New York brokerage firm. The moves follow Merrill's Friday announcement that the credit crunch had taken a huge bite out of its third-quarter bottom line, with a loss of 50 cents a share predicted to reverse a $2 year-ago profit. Sovereign Bancorp ( SOV), which on Friday forecast its own third-quarter credit sufferings , was cut to underperform at Friedman Billings. The Philadelphia-based bank estimated that its pretax credit loss provision would more than triple sequentially to between $155 million and $165 million.