Bank Stocks Soar on Jobs Report: Financial Winners (Update 1)

Updated from 12:33 p.m. ET with market close information.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Regions Financial ( RF) was the winner among the nation's largest banks on Friday, with shares soaring over 5.4% to close at $9.78.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 1%, while the S&P 500 ( SPX.X) gained 1.3% and the Nasdaq Composite was very strong with a 1.6% gain, following a surprisingly strong report of U.S. nonfarm employment growth during October.

The Department of Labor said the U.S. economy added 204,000 nonfarm jobs during October. That number came in much higher than the consensus estimate of 114,000 among economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

The Labor Department also revised upward its job-growth estimates for the previous months. The agency's estimate for nonfarm payroll growth for August increased to 238,000 from 193,000, and the estimate for September payroll growth increased to 163,000 from 148,000.

But all was not rosy in the employment report, and this may have eased investors' fears that strong employment growth numbers might force a quicker change in Federal Reserve policy than previously expected. The national unemployment rate rose slightly to 7.3% in October from 7.2% in September, and the labor participation rate declined by 0.4% to 62.8% during the month. "The civilian labor force was down by 720,000 in October," the Labor Department said.

"That's a sizable drop," Wells Fargo Private Bank regional chief investment officer Darrell Cronk said early on Friday. "That means quite a few people fell out of the labor force and I think we would have seen a higher spike in the unemployment rate had we not seen such a great drop in the labor force participation rate."

"Four tenths of one percent is the biggest one-month move down that we've seen" in the labor force participation rate in 2013, Cronk added.

The positive market reaction on Friday indicates investors saw enough negative information in the unemployment report to stave off fears that the Federal Open Market Committee might begin reducing "QE3" bond purchases by the Federal Reserve following its next meeting on Dec. 17 to 18.

The Fed has been purchasing a net $45 billion in long-term U.S. Treasury securities and $40 billion in long-term agency mortgage-backed securities each month since September 2012, in an effort to hold down long-term interest rates.

The "volatility curves in the markets right now" indicate that the Federal Reserve "is on hold until March," according to Cronk, but "this report probably brings us back to at least a discussion about December or January" for a possible tapering of bond buying by the Fed.

Banks led the broad market, with the KBW Bank Index ( I:BKX) rising 3.4% to close at 65.93, with the 24 index components all rising over 1%.

Big banks seeing shares rise over 4% included Comerica ( CMA) of Dallas, closing at $45.15; JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), at $53.91, KeyCorp ( KEY) of Cleveland, trading for $13.01; SunTrust ( STI) of Atlanta, at $35.71; and Zions Bancorporation ( ZION) of Salt Lake City, which closed at $29.64.

Regions

Shares of Regions Financial of Birmingham, Ala., have returned 38 this year. The shares trade for 1.3 times their reported Sept. 30 tangible book value of $7.32, and for 11.5 times the consensus 2014 earnings estimate of 85 cents, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Please see TheStreet's earnings coverage for details of Regions Financial's third-quarter results.

Jefferies analyst Ken Usdin rates Regions a "Buy," with an $11 price target, estimating the company will earn 84 cents a share in 2014, with EPS increasing to 90 cents in 2015.

"We continue to like RF given its better near-term and longer-term net interest margin story and improving capital return potential," Usdin wrote in a client note on Oct. 22.

RF Chart RF data by YCharts

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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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