Cullen/Frost Bankers: Financial Winner

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Cullen Frost Bankers ( CFR) of San Antonio was the winner among large U.S. banks on Friday, with shares rising 2% to close at $69.44.

The KBW Bank Index ( I:BKX) ended with a slight decline to close at 63.60, with the 24 index components evenly split between winners and losers.

The broad indices all ended lower after James Bullard -- the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and a member of the Federal Open Market Committee -- said during an interview on Bloomberg TV that the FOMC on Wednesday made a "borderline decision" not to curtail the Fed's bond-buying, based on recent economic data. Bullard went on to say the tapering of the "QE3" balance sheet expansion by the Fed could take place as soon as next month.

After the broad market's strong favorable reaction to Wednesday's FOMC decision, which was followed by a very rough Thursday for several large regional banks that may be waiting even longer than they had previously expected for short-term interest rates to rise, Bullard may have rekindled the market's hysteria over Federal Reserve policy.

Bullard said he was "a little dismayed at those in markets that are saying they're surprised" by the FOMC's decision on Wednesday. Then again, his comments may confuse the market again, since the possibility of tapering next month is a bit different from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's statement during his Wednesday press conference that "We could move later this year."

Then again, both Bullard and Bernanke emphasized this week that the FOMC's decisions would be "data dependent."

Shares of JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) on Friday were up a nickel to close at $52.80, one day after the company was hit with $920 million in fines from four bank regulators, springing from the "London Whale" trading debacle, along with another $369 million in customer refunds and fines for "illegal credit card practices." TheStreet reported that JPMorgan's attorneys believe CEO James Dimon will face no individual charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission , and that corporate litigation experts see little benefit to plaintiffs suing JPM from the bank's "historic" admission of wrongdoing.

Societe General on Friday initiated coverage of the "big four" U.S. banks, with "buy" ratings for Bank of America ( BAC) and Citigroup ( C), but "hold" ratings for the far more profitable JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo ( WFC).

Cullen/Frost Bankers

Shares of Cullen/Frost have returned 27.95% this year. The shares trade for 2.3 times tangible book value, according to Thomson Reuters Bank insight, and for 17.2 times the consensus 2014 earnings estimate of $4.05 a share. That's quite a high valuation in the current environment for stocks of large regional banks, reflecting 10 years of very solid earnings performance, with no surprises, even during the credit crisis.

The company in August agreed to acquire privately held WNB Bancshares of Odessa, Texas, for $220 million. WNB Bancshares is the holding company for Western National Bank, with $1.4 billion in total assets and $1.2 billion in total deposits as of June 30. Cullen/Frost had $22.6 billion in total assets as of June 30.

Cullen/Frost in its announcement in August said it expected the WNB acquisition to be "approximately 4 percent accretive to Cullen/Frost's 2014 earnings per share before one-time restructuring charges."

CFR Chart CFR data by YCharts

Interested in more on Cullen/Frost Bankers? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.

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

>Contact by Email.

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 TheStreet.com 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.

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