First Niagara: Another Margin Loser

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- First Niagara Financial Group ( FNFG) was the loser among the largest U.S. banks on Friday, with shares rising sliding 4% to close at $8.05.

The broad markets ended with slight gains, as earnings reports from technology companies continued, heading into the earnings announcement from Apple ( AAPL), scheduled for after the market close. Shares of Google ( GOOG) rising 5.5% to close at $741.50 and IBM ( IBM) rising over 4% to close at $204.72, after both companies announced their fourth-quarter results.

Google on Wednesday morning reported fourth-quarter earnings of $10.65 a share, beating the consensus estimate of $10.49 a share, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The company said that its consolidated fourth-quarter revenues were up 36% year-over-year, to $14.42 billion.

IBM after Tuesday's market close reported fourth-quarter operating earnings of $5.39 a share, beating the consensus estimate of $5.25. The company's fourth-quarter revenue of $29.3 billion was down slightly from a year earlier, but came in ahead of the consensus estimate of $29.09 billion.

Jim Cramer said Wednesday that he would be a buyer of IBM right now.

Societe Generale analyst Richard Nguyen on Wednesday upgraded IBM to a "Hold" rating from a "Sell" rating, with a price target of $201, citing the "better than expected guidance for 2013" with the company forecasting operating EPS "to reach $16.7 at least, above current consensus expectations of $16.64 and Nguyen's estimate of $15.88." The analyst added that "IBM has delivered a solid performance overall in 2012 and is on track to reach its 2015 EPS target of $20 per share. While Services and Software have been in line with expectations, we were positively surprised by a better ramp-up with the new mainframe solution."

A Narrowing Margin in 2013

First Niagara Financial Group of Buffalo, N.Y., reported fourth-quarter operating net income of available to common shareholders of $67.8 million, or 19 cents a share, increasing from $66.5 million, or 19 cents a share, in the third quarter, but declining from $72.1 million, or 24 cents a share, during the fourth quarter of 2011.

Fourth-quarter operating EPS beat the consensus estimate by a penny.

The operating results excluded a pre-tax adjustment of $16 million "to accelerate premium amortization on its Collateralized Mortgage Obligations (CMO) portfolio," as well as $3.7 million in restructuring charges.

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