Bank stocks fell sharply on Friday as stronger-than-usual employment numbers spurred a selloff in the bond market and raised fears of rising interest rates.
The Standard & Poor's bank index dropped 3.08% for the shortened trading day - compared with a 2.01% decline for the Dow Jones industrial average and a 2.22% drop for the S&P.
Some of the biggest losers of the day included Mellon Bank Corp., which fell $2.125 to close at $55.625; Signet Bank, which slipped 87.5 cents, to $22.50; Citicorp, which closed at $79.875, off $2.875; and Chase Manhattan Corp., which closed at $68.75, down $2.625. Trading closed at 1 p.m. because of the holiday weekend.
The declines came as the Labor Department reported that the nation added 239,000 jobs in June - well above the 157,000 expected by economists. Bonds and stocks slumped in the wake of the report.
Bond yields - which move inversely to the bond prices - surged as high as 7.14%, from 6.93% on Wednesday.
Economists said the employment numbers suggested that the Federal Reserve is almost sure to raise interest rates next month. Last week the Fed decided not to boost rates.
"These numbers make the Fed's tightening in August a lot more likely," said economist Scott Brown of Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, Fla. "And they don't have to wait for the August meeting."
Rising rates can hurt bank earnings, because the rates on bank liabilities often rise faster the yields on loans and other assets. They also can curb loan growth.
But bank stocks strengthened slightly after the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Katharine Abrahams, cautioned not "to make too much of what happened this month."
Some bank analysts also shrugged off the steep decline, citing the holiday weekend as a contributing factor.
"Forty percent of Wall Street took Friday off," said analyst Joseph Stieven of Stifel Nicholas & Co. in St. Louis. "My guess is that some stocks were beat up today because of a lack of investors will come bouncing back on Monday."
Dean Witter Reynolds upgraded Barnett Banks Inc. to "accumulate" from "neutral."
Analyst Anthony Davis cited its heavy investment in technology and strong market share in Florida. His earnings-per-share estimates are $5.70 for 1996 and $6.30 for 1997. His 12-month price target is $71.
In spite of the upgrade, Barnett shares closed at $60.875, down $1.125, as a result of the selloff in the bond market.