9. Astoria Financial


Shares of Astoria Financial ( AF) of Lake Success, N.Y., closed at $9.74 Thursday, returning 4% during January, following a 13% return last year. The shares reversed direction last year, following a 41% plunge during 2011. At the end of January, Astoria's stock was still down 30% since the end of 2010.

A the end of January, the shares traded for 0.9 times tangible book value, and for 17.1 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of 57 cents. The Consensus 2013 EPS estimate is 52 cents.

Based on a quarterly payout of 4 cents, the shares have a dividend yield of 1.64%.

Astoria's ROA for 2012 was 0.40%. The company had $16.5 billion in total assets as of Dec. 31.

The company has had a particularly difficult time in the prolonged low-rate environment, as the prepayment of residential mortgage loans has kept its net interest margin at relatively low levels. Meanwhile, Astoria has been striving to grow its multifamily and commercial real estate businesses sufficiently to grow its earnings.

Fourth-quarter earnings were $16.9 million, or 17 cents a share, increasing from $13.4 million, or 14 cents a share, in the third quarter, and $11.8 million, or 12 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2011. The net interest margin during the fourth quarter was 2.21%, improving from 2.09% the previous quarter, and 2.20% a year earlier.

Average residential mortgage loan balances declined 5% year-over-year to $10.1 billion during the fourth quarter, while average multifamily and commercial real estate loans grew by 30% to $4.1 billion.

Guggenheim Securities analyst David Darst has a "neutral" rating on Astoria, with a $10 price target, estimating the company will earn 53 cents a share this year, with EPS increasing to 56 cents in 2014.

Along with its focus on growing its multifamily and commercial lending business, the company is also "building a stronger deposit gathering program through commercial bankers and a renewed focus at the branch level, " according to Darst.

"We believe AF could introduce other lending initiatives as the new branch model evolves," he said."

AF Chart AF data by YCharts

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

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