F.N.B. Corporation ( FNB) of Hermitage, Pa., closed at $9.06 Thursday, declining 5% over the previous week, and down 6% year-to-date. Based on a quarterly payout of 12 cents, the shares have a very attractive dividend yield of 5.30%. The shares trade for 10 times the consensus 2012 earnings estimate of 84 cents a share.

KBW analyst Damon DelMonte describes F.N.B. "as having one of the best opportunities for organic growth within its current footprint," with its recent deal to acquire Parkvale Financial and the "the ongoing hotbed of activity surrounding the Marcellus Shale gas field." The Parkvale deal is valued at $130 million, and will bring on $1.8 billion in assets and 47 additional branches in the Pittsburgh area.

DelMonte says that "this an excellent time to own the shares of FNB," since the dividend is now "north of 5%," and the company "operates in one of a few areas in the country which is slated to experience heightened new loan activity."

DelMonte also has an "Outperform" rating for First Niagara Financial Group ( FNFG) of Buffalo, N.Y., which is continuing its aggressive regional expansion with its deal to acquire HSBC's ( HBC) retail branch network in Upstate New York and Connecticut. The shares closed at $10.63 Thursday, pulling back 6% from a week earlier, but down 21% year-to-date.

Based on a quarterly payout of 16 cents, First Niagara's shares have a dividend yield of 6.02%. The shares trade for just over eight times the consensus 2012 EPS estimate of $1.23.

DelMonte says that despite "investor apathy" over the HSBC deal, -- which will end up with First Niagara closing or selling about 100 of the acquired branches to alleviate the U.S. Justice Department's anti-trust concerns -- the end result of the company's expansion will be "not only a bigger bank, but one with a sound balance sheet with stronger earnings momentum." The analyst also says that First Niagara's "credit remains steady like a rock," and that "the bank's dividend policy should be viewed as a safe-haven for investors during a time of market volatility."

Hancock Holding Company ( HBHC) of Gulfport, Miss., was recently featured among TheStreet's 10 Big Banks With Solid Revenue, with strong second-quarter revenue growth, from a year earlier.

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