NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Regions Financial ( RFF was the winner among the largest U.S. banks on Tuesday, with shares rising over 4% to close at $7.76.

Tech Names on Tap

The broad indexes ended higher as investors headed into earnings season for technology stocks. Shares of Dell ( DELL rose over 2% to close at $13.13, after David Faber of CNBC reported that Microsoft ( MSFT was considering investing up to $3 billion, as part of a private-equity deal to take Dell private. Microsoft's shares were down slightly to close at $27.17.

KBW analyst Shaw Wu said in a note that a take-out of Dell in the range of $13 to $14 a share is "possible," but that "a materially higher price is less likely," because "attractive returns could prove difficult." The analyst -- who has a "Neutral" rating on Dell -- also said that "as we have seen in the recent past, LBOs like Freescale and First Data that look like winners end up not living up to promises as acquirers underestimate the secular pressures a company in decline faces."

When discussing the advantages and disadvantages of Dell going private, Wu said "going private takes the company out of the quarter-to-quarter grind of being a publicly traded company. But on the negative, not having publicly traded stock could make it more difficult to make larger, transformative acquisitions as the company will likely spend the majority of its cash flow servicing debt interest."

Shares of Apple ( AAPL rose 1% to close at $504.77, heading into the company's fiscal first-quarter earnings announcement, scheduled for Wednesday, after the market close. The consensus among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for Apple to post earnings of $15.50 a share, on revenue of $59.553 billion, increasing from $11.00 a share, on revenue of $41.806 billion, a year earlier.

UBS analyst Steven Milunovich continues to rate Apple a "Buy," but on Monday lowered his price target for the shares by $50 to $650, while cutting his fiscal 2013 EPS estimate to $44.68 from $47.00, because survey work by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners indicates that "(1) demand for storage has declined from about 30GB with the 4S to 20GB for the iPhone 5 with fewer customers opting for the 64GB model, and (2) demand for older models has increased from 33% in the 4S cycle to 50% so far for the 5."

Apple's shares have declined 28% from their closing high of $702.10 on Sept 19.

Back to the Banks

The KBW Bank Index ( I:BKX rose 1% to close at 53.90, with all but three of the 24 index components showing gains for the session.

Shares of Bank of America ( BAC were up 2% to close at $11.35, reversing their 5% slide during the previous two sessions. The company on Thursday reported meager fourth-quarter earnings of three cents a share, springing from its large mortgage putback settlement with Fannie Mae ( FNMA and its portion of the $8.5 billion foreclosure settlement between federal regulators and the largest mortgage loan servicers.

With "27 of the top 100 regional banks" having reported their fourth-quarter results through Friday, Oppenheimer analyst Terry McEvoy said in a note on Monday that "revenue increased 10.7% annualized in 4Q12 vs. 4.9% in the prior quarter. With net interest income flat, the growth is coming from fee income largely on the strength of mortgage banking. The ability of banks to increase net interest income in '13 will rest on whether loan growth can offset net interest margin compression."

Regions Financial

Regions Financial of Birmingham, Ala., reported adjusted fourth-quarter operating earnings of $311 million, or 22 cents a share, beating the consensus estimate 21 cents.

The adjusted earnings excluded roughly $42 million in pretax costs for the termination of a third-party investment in a REIT subsidiary.

Fourth-quarter GAAP earnings available to common shareholders were $261 million, or 18 cents a share, compared to $312 million, or 21 cents a share, in the third quarter, and a net loss to common shareholders of $135 million, or 48 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Fourth-quarter net interest income was $818 million, increasing slightly from $817 million the previous quarter, but declining from $849 million a year earlier. The net interest margin -- the spread between the average yield on loans and investments and the average cost for deposits and borrowings -- was a tax-adjusted 3.10% in the fourth quarter, widening from 3.08%, both in the third quarter and in the fourth-quarter of 2011.

While the company's average total loans declined 1% sequentially and 5% year-over-year to $74.622 billion in the fourth quarter as commercial real estate and residential mortgage loans continued to decline, average commercial and industrial loans grew 1% quarter-over-quarter and 9% year-over-year, to $26.414 billion. Meanwhile, average indirect auto loans grew by 7% sequentially and 26% year-over-year, to $2.295 billion in the fourth quarter.

The fourth-quarter provision for loan losses was $37 million, while the company saw net loan charge-offs of $180 million, for a reserve release of $143 million, which boosted operating earnings. The reserve release declined from $229 million in the third quarter.

Fourth-quarter noninterest income totaled $536 million, increasing from $533 million in the third quarter and $507 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. Fourth-quarter mortgage income totaled $90 million, declining from $106 million the previous quarter, but increasing from $57 million a year earlier. The sequential decline in mortgage income was offset by a $10 million increase in service charges on deposit accounts, to $254 million, as well as an increase in other noninterest income.

Regions Financial's fourth-quarter annualized ratio of net charge-offs to average loans was 0.96%, declining from 1.38% the previous quarter and 2.16% a year earlier. The company reported a Dec. 31 ratio of nonperforming assets (including nonaccrual loans, loans past due 90 days or more and foreclosed assets) to loans, foreclosed properties and nonperforming loans held for sale, of 3.19%, improving from 3.47% in September and 4.40% in December 2011. Loan loss reserves covered 2.59% of total loans as of Dec. 31.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher Mutascio rates Regions a "Hold," and said in a note that the company's "core pre-tax pre-provision earnings (excluding the REIT subsidiary costs) were $506 million versus our $481 million estimate," because of the margin expansion, "greater than anticipated fee income driven by strong deposit service charges and 'other, income, which more than offset somewhat lower than expected mortgage banking income, and... better cost containment efforts."

The analyst added that "perhaps most important, credit quality continues to improve which should alleviate some concerns stemming from the sizable increase in gross nonperforming loan inflows reported in 3Q12. Gross nonperforming loan inflows decreased to $350 million in 4Q12, down from the 3Q12 level of $463 million."

Mutascio estimates that Regions will earn 83 cents a share in 2013.

Regions Financial's shares trades for 1.1 times their reported Dec. 31 tangible book value of $7.11, and for 9.8 times the consensus 2013 EPS estimate of 79 cents. The consensus 2014 EPS estimate is 81 cents.

Interested in more on Regions Financial? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.

State Street

Shares of State Street ( STT of Boston rose 3.5% to close at $55.25.

The company on Friday reported fourth-quarter operating earnings available to common shareholders of $521 million, or $1.11 a share, increasing from $473 million, or 99 cents a share, in the third quarter, and $454 million, or 93 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2011. The adjusted fourth-quarter earnings excluded $139 million in acquisition and restructuring costs, mainly related to the reduction of 630 staff positions, which will be completed this year.

Highlights for the quarter included $260 million in investment management fees, increasing 4% sequentially and 29% year-over-year, ""primarily due to stronger equity markets, net new business, and higher performance fees." Please see TheStreet's earnings coverage for more detail on State Street's fourth-quarter results.

Guggenheim analyst Marty Mosby rates State Street a "Buy," with a $57 price target, and on Tuesday said that "as the operating environment stabilizes going into 2013, revenue growth should continue; furthermore, positive efficiencies should continue to build and excess capital should be deployed through either share repurchases or acquisitions."

"As a result, we expect STT to be able to grow operating earnings per share by about 10% in 2013 and improve operating return on tangible common equity back toward 18%."

State Street's shares have already risen 18% year-to-date, following a 19% return during 2012.

The shares trade for 12.6 times the consensus 2013 EPS estimate of $4.38. The consensus 2014 EPS estimate is $4.98.

Based on a quarterly payout of 24 cents, the shares have a dividend yield of 1.74%.

Interested in more on State Street? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.


-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.