Financial Winners and Losers: MasterCard

(Includes closing stock prices.) NEW YORK ( TheStreet -- Blowout second-quarter earnings by the credit card companies set the financial sector on an upward trajectory on Thursday.

MasterCard ( MA) beat Wall Street's top- and bottom-line estimates, in part by raising fees and cutting costs, as it reported before the market opened on Thursday. Expenses dropped by 13% and net revenue increased 2.7% giving the company earnings of $2.67 for the second quarter. The stock jumped over 10% in early trading and closed up $5.56, or 3%, $194.11.

Card processor Visa ( V) reported similar results after the close on Wednesday, easily beating analysts' earnings estimates. Expecting customers to cut back on credit card spending, Visa compensated by reducing expenses, which helped it achieve the impressive results. Net income rose 73% to $729 million. Excluding the sale of VisaNet do Brazil, the company still delivered adjusted net income for the second quarter of $507 million, or 67 cents per share, vs. the consensus 64 cents per share predicted by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. Shares finished up 43 cents, 0.6%, to $67.21.

The NYSE Financial sector index climbed 96.62 to 4299.19 and the KBW Bank index added 1.32 to 39.99, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 83.74 points to 9154.46.

Barclays stepped up to provide CIT Group ( CIT) with a $3 billion line of credit. The show of support boosted the stock 12.8% to 88 cents. CIT has been fighting for survival over the past few weeks, as many expected the company to file for bankruptcy. "The company had received commitments from lenders for $2 billion in financing under the Amended and Restated Credit Facility, which has been fully drawn," the company said.

Hartford Insurance Group ( HIG) beat earnings estimates by reporting $1.90 a share, vs. analysts' estimates of $1.16. After investment losses and charges, it turned out that the insurance provider ended up with a net loss of $15 million. But the market was buoyed by a dividend cut and expense cuts that the company implemented in order to address massive losses. Hartford's share price has rebounded over the last month, gaining 42%. Shares added $2.03, or 13.6% to close at $16.99.

Fellow insurer Lincoln National ( LNC) posted a second-quarter loss of $161.4 million, but the stock finished the day with a 12.4% jump to $20.29

One insurer that didn't fare so well was Willis Group Holdings ( WSH), which tumbled 10% after reporting its earnings following the market close on Wednesday. The company actually delivered a 50% increase in net profits, but the market slammed the stock and sent it down $2.68 to $24.17.

Also on the losing side, struggling Citigroup ( C) gained nine cents in the morning on strong volume after announcing it was selling its 64% stake in Nikko Asset Management. But the stock couldn't hold the positive momentum and eventually slid back into negative territory as it closed out the day down eight cents to $3.14. The Japanese boutique firm is being picked up by The Sumitomo Trust and Banking Co for roughly $795 million. Citigroup is trying to overhaul its banking operations and get back to more traditional banking businesses.

Fannie Mae ( FNM) and Freddie Mac ( FRED) were on the losing side of the market for the day. Both the mortgage lenders tumbled after it was reported that mortgage rates were rising, leading investors to assume that fewer people would buy homes. Fox Business News also reported that the lenders are expected to receive more capital injections over the next 12 months. Fannie shares ended down two cents to close at 57 cents and Freddie also gave back two cents to end the day at 60 cents a share. P/> -- Written by Debra Borchardt in New York.