Most Bank Stocks Rise on 'Credit Suisse Day'

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The health of the U.S. banking industry is continuing to improve, although the hostile interest rate environment is placing a drag on operating revenue.

The broad indices ended roughly flat, as investors shrugged off the latest high-profile housing report, which this time included a positive surprise. The KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) rose 0.3% to 68.48, with all but seven of the 24 index components ending with gains. The winner among major domestic banks was First Niagara Financial Group (FNFG), with shares rising 1.5% to $9.05.

The Census Bureau on Wednesday said sales of new single-family homes in the United States rose 9.6% month-over-month and 2.2% year-over-year to an annual pace of 468,000. That number was way ahead of the consensus estimate of 404,000 among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

But the Census Bureau said its preliminary estimate of the 9.6% sequential increase had a margin of error of plus or minus 17.9%, meaning the actual change in the annual pace of new-home sales in January was likely to range from a decline of 8.3% to an increase of 27.5%.

Swiss Banking Show

The major piece of banking industry news on Wednesday was the release of a scathing 176-page report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee for Investigations, entitled OFFSHORE TAX EVASION: The Effort to Collect Unpaid Taxes on Billions in Hidden Offshore Accounts.  The Subcommittee in the report took the Swiss Government, the Justice Department and even the full U.S. Senate for taking inadequate action to address the problem and help the U.S. government recover lost tax revenue.  The report also featured a "case study" of the efforts by some Credit Suisse (CS)employees to help some U.S. clients evade U.S. taxes.  The Subcommittee followed the release of the report with a hearing that featured Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan and Hans-Ulrich Meister, the bank's co-head of private banking and wealth management.

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