Updated from 2:11 p.m. EDT with new stock pricesThe financial sector spent most of Monday in positive territory, brightened by a string of positive earnings releases and the climbing broader market. American Express ( AXP) reported a third-quarter continuing-operations profit of $1.07 billion, or 90 cents a share, for an
Calyon Securities upped PartnerRe's ( PRE) price target by $20 to $100 following far-better-than-expected third-quarter results, after which the insurer's shares lifted 2.7% to $80.62. And Ohio bank FirstMerit ( FMER), whose third-quarter income was also above par, ballooned 5.1% to $19.51. On the flip side, PFF Bancorp ( PFB) saw one of the sector's steepest price drops after posting a surprise fiscal second-quarter loss of $7.5 million, or 33 cents a share, due to a loan-and-lease loss provision that spiked more than 50% sequentially to $94.4 million. Analysts were seeking a profit of 47 cents a share; a year ago the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., bank earned 56 cents a share. PFF shares took a 17.9% dive to $11.45. Mortgage lender Countrywide ( CFC), meanwhile, announced it will
offer to refinance or modify up to $16 billion in loans through a new program designed help Countrywide borrowers who are facing an adjustable-rate mortgage reset by the end of 2008. This will help more than 80,000 customers, said the California-based company, including about 52,000 subprime borrowers with a strong payment history, for whom a special refinance unit has been created. Countrywide shares traded higher out of the gate but then fell 63 cents, or 4%, to $15.05. Elsewhere, Merrill Lynch ( MER) saw heavy trading ahead of tomorrow's scheduled earnings release -- which, as the New York brokerage warned earlier this month, will reflect a third-quarter loss. Shares closed up 1% to $67.12 after spending most of the day in negative territory. Broad sector trackers were mixed. The NYSE Financial Sector Index tacked on 0.2% to 9,100.38 while the KBW Bank Index shed 0.2% at 101.