BB&T Corp. ( (BBT - Get Report) ), Bank of New York Mellon ( (BK - Get Report) ) and KeyCorp. ( (KEY - Get Report) ) on Thursday reported first quarter results all either meeting consensus estimates for earnings per share or falling slightly below expectations.

Generally consensus-meeting performances by the three mid-size banks suggests that the Federal Reserve will permit them to remain in the middle of the pack among the 33 largest financial institutions operating in the U.S. when it comes to distributing capital to shareholders. The three banks are undergoing central bank stress tests to see if they can survive a future financial crisis and their capital distributions rely on how comfortable the Fed is with their capital buffers.

Stress tests and distribution plans for the 12 months starting in the third quarter of 2016 are set to be released by June 30 - most likely in the first half of that month.

Bank of New York Mellon's earnings per share, or EPS of $0.73 a share, including $17 million in litigation and restructuring charges, beat the $0.68 a share FactSet consensus estimate for the bank. RBC Capital Markets said in a report that the bank beat their own EPS estimate of $0.69 primarily because of lower non-interest expense and slightly lower provisions for credit losses.

Among these three mid-sized banks reporting earnings, Bank of New York Mellon is expected to be permitted by the Fed to return the largest percentage of their earnings to shareholders in the 12 months starting in the third quarter of 2016. RBC estimates that the bank will permitted to pay out roughly 90% of earnings in buybacks and dividends in that period, slightly down from its 101% of earnings distributed during the prior period.

An RBC analyst said the earnings results Thursday will not materially change their estimate, which they distributed earlier this month.

In addition, BB&T on Thursday reported earnings per share of $0.67, including merger-related charges. RBC calculates BB&T's core EPS to be $0.69 a share, ahead of the $0.64 FactSet consensus estimate and the research group's $0.66 estimate. "We believe BBT remains well-positioned for an improving economy and higher rate environment," RBC said.

In addition, RBC expects the Fed will allow BB&T to distribute 77% of their earnings to shareholders once the regional bank completes its stress test, up from 69% during the last period. The Fed has approved a series of acquisitions by BB&T, which has been on a buying spree, acquiring Susquehanna Bancshares Inc. and National Penn Bancshares Inc. in $2.5 billion and $1.8 billion deals last year. In February the Winston Salem, N.C.-bank acquired CGSC North America Holding Corp. for $500 million.

Key, which is in the final stages of acquiring First Niagara Financial Group for $4.1 billion, reported $0.22 EPS, including a merger-related charge of $24 million, short of a FactSet consensus estimate of $0.25. RBC Capital Markets on Thursday reported that excluding the merger-related charge, it calculates core EPS to be $0.24, closer to the consensus. RBC concluded that Key's first quarter performance was generally steady relative to peers and its capital buffer should "lead to continued capital return to shareholders" RBC estimates that Key will return 63% of its earnings to shareholders, down substantially from its 91% of earnings distributed in the prior period. The First Niagara deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2016.