7. Provident Financial Services

Shares of Provident Financial Services ( PFS) of Iselin, N.J., closed at $13.99, returning 13% over the previous year. Based on a quarterly payout of 12 cents, the shares have a dividend yield of 3.43%. The company raised the dividend a penny on April 28, when it reported its first-quarter results.

First-quarter net income was $12.9 million, or 23 cents s share, increasing from $11.2 million, or 20 cents s share, in the first quarter of 2010. The first-quarter provision for loan losses declined to $7.9 million from $9 million a year earlier. Net interest income increased 5% year-over-year, as funding costs declined.

The net interest margin increased to 3.47% in the first quarter from 3.31% a year earlier, according to SNL Financial, as funding costs declined. The first-quarter ROA was 0.76%.

Following the earnings release, Matthew Kelly of Sterne Agee reiterated his neutral rating on the shares, pointing out some coming expense reductions, as "FDIC insurance premiums are set to decline by 37% or $0.7 mil. per quarter," and the company will also be consolidating its administrative offices. Kelly increased his 2011 earnings estimate for Provident Financial to $1.06 a share from a dollar, and his 2012 earnings estimate to $1.12 a share, from $1.10.

The shares trade for 12 times the consensus 2012 earnings estimate of $1.17 a share.

Out of seven analysts covering Provident Finance Services, three rate the shares a buy, while the remaining analysts all have neutral ratings.

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