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Worst Performing Bank Stocks of 2011

Overview Overview

The year in bank stocks got off to a rough start. It turned worse still in the second half amid high volatility and repeated rallies inspired by euro zone rescue attempts that failed to sustain investor confidence.

Key Events:

  • Libya spillover - Turmoil in Libya appeared to trigger the KBW Bank Index's first one-day decline of more than 3% in 2011.
  • Bad economic news - A cluster of negative reports catalyzed worries about the faltering recovery, and the KBW Bank Index notched its first one-day loss of more than 4%.
  • Debt-ceiling deadline - After weeks of gut-wrenching partisan brinksmanship, President Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011.
  • Ratings cut - The KBW Bank Index plummeted 11% in the first trading day after S&P cut its rating of the U.S.
  • Currency swap expansion - The Fed joined with other central banks to expand currency swap arrangements, driving the KBW Bank Index to a 7% one-day jump.

Bank of America Corp. Bank of America Corp.

A vote of confidence from Warren Buffett provided temporary relief, but the sick man of American banking continued to sink under the weight of its mortgage liabilities.

Key Events:

Citigroup Inc. Citigroup Inc.

B of A took the mantle from Citi as the most troubled large banking company in the country, but Citi's shares still performed poorly in 2011. Citi did manage to end the year with a larger domestic core after deciding to hold onto a big piece of its cards business, and signaled confidence that it would begin to return capital to shareholders in 2012.

Key Events:

  • Dividend reinstatement - Citi announced plans to reinstate a quarterly dividend of one cent a share and to conduct a reverse split.
  • Reintegrating retail cards - After hinting at such a move for months, Citi announced that it had decided to take its $40 billion-asset retail branded credit card operation out of a vehicle set up for businesses slated for disposal.

SunTrust Banks Inc. SunTrust Banks Inc.

SunTrust put what CEO William Rogers called "the Tarp era" behind it in March, but the company's shares had trouble making progress from there. Worries about expense controls and mortgage buyback liabilities hung over the company, which was the subject of speculation that it might sell.

Key Events:

  • Tarp repayment - SunTrust bought back the preferred stock it had issued under the bailout program.
  • CEO William Rogers - Former CEO James Wells completed a handoff to his successor, Rogers, who had been the company's president since 2008.
  • Mortgage buyback warning - SunTrust said that costs from buying back faulty mortgages would continue to increase in the fourth quarter.

Comerica Inc. Comerica Inc.

Comerica never regained the ground it lost to peers when investors sold off its shares in apparent displeasure over the price tag on its purchase of Sterling Bancshares. The company did finish the year with a reassuring message to investors. In December it announced it plans to continue paying out about 50% of earnings via dividends and stock buybacks in the first quarter of 2012.

Key Events:

  • Sterling Bancshares deal - The deal's price of 2.3 times tangible book turned heads.
  • Selloff on NIM pressure - Comerica's shares tumbled 11% the day it reported a 5 basis point decline in its net interest margin from the year prior in the third quarter
  • 50% payout in 1Q12 - Comerica announced that it planned to pay out about 50% of earnings through dividends and buybacks in the first quarter of 2012.

Regions Financial Corp. Regions Financial Corp.

Regions looked for a buyer for its brokerage unit - a sale would help ease the company's exit from Tarp - and brought its credit card business in-house to bulk up its consumer operation, but doubts about the company's long-term earnings prospects dragged down its shares.

Key Events:

First Niagara Financial Group Inc. First Niagara Financial Group Inc.

Investors hammered First Niagara's stock after it announced its fourth major deal since 2009. Financial projections for the purchase of 195 HSBC branches, mostly in upstate New York, unraveled as the company's shares fell in a self-reinforcing spiral that made a planned offering to pay for the acquisition costlier.

Key Events:

  • HSBC branch deal - First Niagara said it planned to unload about a third of the $15 billion of deposits it agreed to acquire, and projected that the deal would increase its EPS by about 10% in 2012.
  • Earnings report disappoints - The company's shares dropped more than 5% on a good day for bank stocks generally as questions swirled about the HSBC deal.
  • Capital plan - First Niagara launched its share offering, substituting a slug of common stock it had planned to sell with preferred. It projected the deal would reduce EPS in 2012.

It was a bad year for the KBW Bank Index. Here are the six names that led the way down.

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