Financial stocks were mixed Friday and hovered near the flat line as positive analyst notes and deal-related news offset a few more stabs of bad news. Among the day's biggest price gainers was Slade's Ferry Bancorp ( SFBC), a small-cap name that soared 57% after fellow Massachusetts concern Independent Bank ( INDB) agreed to buy it for around $25.50 a share, or $105 million. The stock-and-cash deal should close in the first quarter. Independent foresees 2008 earnings accretion, excluding one-off merger items. Slade's shares bounced $8.72 to $24.02; Independent was recently up 0.6% at $30.42. Dollar Financial ( DLLR), of Berwyn, Pa., gained 4.4% to $31.43 after agreeing to buy 82 of CCS Financial Services' Florida check-cashing stores for about $100 million. Dollar expects earnings accretion immediately on closing, with 19 cents to 22 cents a share predicted over the following year in addition to some $45 million in revenue. The deal will probably close within the next two months. In brokerage action, Knight Capital ( NITE) got a sharp lift after Goldman Sachs upped the online broker to buy, saying its stock is now too cheap given an ongoing share-buyback program and other positive developments. Shares of the Jersey City, N.J., company tacked on 82 cents, or 6.3%, to $13.87. Also rising on upgrades were Centene ( CNC), a St. Louis-based health insurer and managed-care provider, and New York's Annaly Capital Management ( NLY), which garnered positive ratings at Lehman Brothers and RBC Capital Markets, respectively. Shares added 3.5% and 1.6%.
But Deutsche Bank hit Citigroup ( C) with a
cut to sell following Thursday night's announcement of a Citi management shakeup, which the analyst said was insufficient insofar as the Office of Chairman was left intact "despite performance that has repeatedly fallen short of peers and certain of their operating targets." The New York-based banking behemoth merged its Markets & Banking and Alternative Investments businesses into a new unit called Institutional Clients Group, of which Vikram Pandit was appointed CEO. James Forese will succeed Thomas Maheras, who is departing from his role as co-chief executive of the Markets & Banking business. Citi shares were off 1.4% at $47.66 to pressure both the NYSE Financial Sector Index and the KBW Bank Index, which were up 0.2% and down 0.3%, respectively. Fellow KBW tracker member Zions Bancorp ( ZION) also lost ground after pegging third-quarter income at $1.21 to $1.23 a share with a more-than-tripled loan-loss provision, sequentially, of between $55 million and $56 million. Net charge-offs should nearly double to roughly $18 million. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial are seeking EPS of $1.35, excluding special items. Shares gave up 3.7% to $68.42. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that two executives at Capital One's ( COF) Home Loans business -- chief and founder Lance Melber, as well as Jay Listisen -- are leaving the company, as per an internal company email. Mike Dobbins will replace Melber on Nov. 1, said the Journal. Shares of the credit-card issuer fell 0.9% to $71.27. New York insurer American International Group ( AIG) spent most of the morning in negative territory on word it's part of a Virgin-led investor group that proposed to "inject substantial new equity" into struggling Britain-based bank Northern Rock, which would thereafter be renamed Virgin Money. Lately, AIG shares were flat at $68.13.