Bank stocks bounced around again Thursday as investors digested a mixed bag of first-quarter results.

The KBW Bank Index seesawed but closed up 3.71% on a day that banking companies like PNC Financial Services Group Inc. posted better-than-expected earnings while others missed estimates substantially. On balance investors were encouraged by the sector's first-quarter performance to date, said Theodore Kovaleff, the president of Informed Sources Service Group in New York.

"In some cases, people are reacting to the bottom line, but they should be drilling deeper because the bottom line is not always reflective of the true health of the banks," he said.

PNC's shares rose 7.5% after the Pittsburgh company said its first-quarter net income after paying preferred dividends rose 22%, to $460 million, or $1.03 per share, much more than analysts' average 42-cent estimate. This compares to net income of $377 million, or $1.09 per share, a year earlier.

Fifth Third Bancorp rose 13 cents, to $3.82 a share. The Cincinnati company lost $26 million, or 4 cents a share, in the quarter after paying preferred dividends. Analysts on average had expected a loss of 27 cents a share. A year earlier, Fifth Third earned $286 million, or 54 cents.

SunTrust Banks Inc. fell 3.3%. The Atlanta company reported a first-quarter loss of $875.4 million, or $2.49 per share, after paying preferred dividends. Analysts had expected a loss of 65 cents a share. SunTrust earned $281.6 million, or 81 cents a share, a year earlier.

Shares of Synovus Financial Corp. fell 80 cents, to $3.26, after the Columbus, Ga., company late Wednesday said it lost $136.7 million, or 46 cents a share, in the first quarter. Analysts on average had expected a loss of 37 cents. A year earlier, Synovus earned $82.6 million, or 24 cents a share.

After Synovus published its results, Moody's Investors Service downgraded the ratings of it and its subsidiary banks.

Marshall & Ilsley Corp.'s stock fell 3.9%. The Milwaukee company lost $116.9 million, or 44 cents, in the first quarter, missing analysts' average estimate by 10 cents. A year earlier, M&I earned $146.2 million, or 56 cents a share.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. rose 4.1%, and Bank of America Corp., 6.8%. Citigroup Inc. fell 5 cents, to $3.20.

The broader market averages also seesawed but closed up. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.89%, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index 0.99%

The National Association of Realtors reported that March sales of existing homes fell 3% from February, to an annual pace of 4.57 million units. Sales had been expected to fall to an annual pace of 4.65 million units.

The Labor Department said initial claims for unemployment benefits rose to 640,000 in the week that ended April 18, from 613,000 the previous week. Analysts on average had expected 635,000 new claims.

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