Gardner said that "Wednesday's strong market rally suggests to us that the equity market is not yet paying attention to the pending debt ceiling debate. " Considering that the 2011 debt ceiling confrontation led to the just-completed Fiscal Cliff mess, investors may be in for an even rockier ride next month.


SunTrust's shares on Thursday backtracked from a 5% rally over the previous two trading sessions. The shares returned 61% during 2012, following a 40% decline during 2011.

SunTrust trades for 1.1 times tangible book value, according to Thomson Reuters Bank insight, and for 10.6 times the consensus 2013 earnings estimate of $2.71 a share, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The consensus 2014 EPS estimate is $3.00.

The company's investors are looking ahead to the next round of Federal Reserve stress tests which will be completed in March, after which the company seems likely to announce an increased return of capital to shareholders.

SunTrust during the third quarter made several moves to strengthen its balance sheet and address its risk from mortgage repurchase demands, including the sale of its stake in Coca-Cola ( KO) shares, which resulted in a pre-tax gain of $1.9 billion. The company also reported a $371 million provision for mortgage repurchase claims during the third quarter, saying that the move had ""increased the mortgage repurchase reserve to a level that is expected to cover the estimated losses on loans sold to Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) prior to 2009."

The company also sold "$0.5 billion of nonperforming mortgage and commercial real estate loans," while transferring "$1.4 billion of delinquent and current student loans and $0.5 billion of delinquent Ginnie Mae loans to loans held for sale."

SunTrust's estimated Sept. 30 Basel I Tier 1 common equity ratio was 9.8%, increasing from 9.4% the previous quarter.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Erika Penala in November estimated that following the 2013 stress tests, SunTrust would be approved by the Fed to increase its quarterly dividend from a nickel a share to 15 cents, while also repurchasing $565 million in common shares during 2013.

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