Lazard: Banker Pay Cut Winner

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. Financial stocks were generally weaker on Monday, though Lazard ( LAZ) shares got a big boost from activist investor Nelson Peltz, whose company, Trian Partners, announced it had taken a 5.1% stake in the investment bank.

Trian also released a 39-page explanation of its bullish view of Lazard. Trian sees Lazard slashing pay and implementing other shareholder-friendly policies under Ken Jacobs, who took over leadership of the company in 2009 following the death of legendary dealmaker Bruce Wasserstein. Trian also sees Lazard benefitting from an eventual rebound in M&A activity.

Shares of Lazard rose 5.02% to close at $24.25 on Monday.

Observers of the investment banking industry have been expecting compensation to go lower as traditional revenue drivers are diminishing and companies must find ways of improving returns to shareholders. While companies have made some changes, shareholders do not appear satisfied, as evidenced by a recent vote by Citigroup ( C) investors showing disapproval of the pay package of CEO Vikram Pandit.

Elsewhere in the financial sector, stocks were generally weaker, with the Financial Select Sector SPDR ( XLF), an exchange traded fund that tracks the industry, falling 0.56% to $14.26.

Large capital markets-focused institutions with exposure to Europe appeared to see the biggest losses. Morgan Stanley ( MS) shares fell 3.36% to $13.82, Goldman Sachs ( GS) fell 2.12% to $93.63 and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) shares fell 1.17% to $34.62.

Faring better were companies exposed to the recovering U.S. housing market. The SPDR S&P Homebuilders ( XHB) ETF rose 1.88% to $20.63, while SunTrust Banks ( STI) shares climbed 0.36% to $22.51. Regions Financial ( RF), another bank stock relying heavily on a rebound in the Southeastern U.S. housing market, also benefitted from an upgrade on Monday as its shares rose 2.79% to $6.63. Wells Fargo ( WFC), with small capital markets exposure and a big stake in a U.S. housing rebound, rose a penny, or 0.03% to close at $32.46.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

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