Zions Rises Over 2% on Flat Day for Bank Stocks

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Zions Bancorporation (ZION) was the winner among bank stocks on Monday, with shares rising 2.2% to close at $29.56 as most of the sector traded sideways.

The broad indices ended higher on a day that featured no major economic reports. The KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) ended slightly higher at 67.83, with winners and losers roughly split.

Economists continued to react to Friday's mixed Employment Situation Report for January, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The U.S. economy added 113,000 nonfarm jobs during December, which was well below the consensus estimate of 189,000, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, and the average 2013 employment growth rate of 194,000 per month.

But there were brighter notes in the data as well. The U.S. unemployment rate declined to 6.6% in January from 6.7% in December, and the U.S. labor participation rate during January rose by 0.2% to 63.0%, reversing the decline of the previous month.

Joe Deaux on Monday broke down the job-growth numbers by industry.

While calling that the Household Survey, which included the rising labor participation rate in January, "a silver lining," Credit Suisse economist Neal Soss struck a rather negative tone in a note to clients on Monday. "It is increasingly hard to argue that the jobs slowdown is an isolated event, and it validates the weak tone seen in the other monthly economic reports such as the ISM, durable goods, and housing," he wrote.

"We have seen this movie plenty of times in this business expansion - periodic slowdowns and speedups exaggerating (in both directions) the economy's true fundamental picture. In that respect, it is premature to suggest the slowdown signals a significant deterioration in the economy's trend performance. But any hopes for a significant breakout to the upside must be put on hold for now," Soss added.

Barclays

Turning back to banks, the major industry buzz on Monday centered on Barclays (BCS), after The Mail on Sunday in a report on Saturday that was updated early Monday, said up to 27,000 Barclays customer data files had been stolen and put up for sale to "rogue City traders."

Barclays said the data was collected from customers of its Barclays Financial Planning unit, which was closed during 2011. That unit used questionnaires to collect details on many aspects of customers' lives, including their earnings, bank account information, loans, medical information, insurance policies, passport numbers and national insurance numbers. Combined with customers' names and addresses, it would appear that people buying this information have everything from soup to nuts on these customers.

And that makes this an unprecedented data breach that is likely to cost the company plenty.

Barclays on Monday also pre-announced its earnings for 2013, ahead of full announcement of its fourth-quarter results, scheduled for Tuesday. The bank's adjusted 2013 profit before taxes was 5.2 billion pounds, and its statutory profit before tax for the year was 2.9 billion pounds. Adjusted profit for 2013 declined 35% from 7.0 billion pounds during 2012. Statutory profit before tax increased considerably from 246 million pounds during 2012.

American Depository receipts of Barclays were up 0.89% on Monday, closing on the New York Stock Exchange at $18.21.

A Slower Loan Decline

The Federal Reserve on Friday reported that the top 25 U.S. banks saw their loan balances decline slightly during January from the end of December, with the group's aggregate January month-end loan balance rising 0.3% from a year earlier. Those numbers may not seem very impressive, however, Wells Fargo analyst Matthew Burnell identified a silver lining, writing in a client note on Monday that the annualized 2.5% decline in loans during January from December was a major improvement over an average annualized decline of 10.8% over the previous four years.

It would appear that the "slower slowdown" in January could back up bank executives' upbeat projection for 2014 loan growth when they reported fourth-quarter earnings. Analysts and investors may hear some more good news about loan growth at the Sterne Agee Banking Conference in Boca Raton, Fla., on Thursday and Friday.

Zions

Shares of Zions Bancorporation of Salt Lake City are down 1% this year, following a 41% return during 2013. The shares trade for 1.2 times tangible book value, according to Thomson Reuters Bank Insight, and for 14.5 times the consensus 2015 earnings estimate of $2.04 a share. The consensus 2014 EPS estimate is $1.83.

Zions on Jan. 27 reported a fourth-quarter net loss to common shareholders of $59.4 million, or 32 cents a share, declining from positive earnings of $209.7 million, or $1.12 a share, during the third quarter and $35.6 million, or 19 cents a share, during the fourth quarter of 2012. The third quarter results included a gain of $126 million, or 68 cents a share, from the redemption of preferred stock.

The fourth-quarter results were affected by debt extinguishment costs and an impairment charge on collateralized debit securities backed by trust preferred securities, resulting from the company's decision to pare these securities in light of the Volcker Rule, which was finalized by regulators in December, but then modified in January. Together these extraordinary items lowered fourth-quarter earnings of $222 million before tax, or 74 cents a share.

BMO analysts Lana Chan and Peter Winter rate Zions "outperform," with a price target of $32, and in a note to clients on Jan. 27 wrote that their price target was based on a multiple of 14 times their 2015 EPS estimate of $1.95, "plus the benefit of a 100-bp increase in interest rates, both on a discounted basis."

This chart shows the performance of Zions Bancorporation's stock against the KBW Bank Index and the S&P 500 :


ZION Chart data by YCharts

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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 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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