Bank stocks lost a little steam Thursday after a heady performance earlier in the week.
The Standard & Poor's Bank Index fell 0.62%. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.23% but remained above the 8,000 mark. The Nasdaq Bank index also fell 0.58% as did the S&P 500, which declined 0.53%.
Analysts dismissed talk that the sluggishness in the stocks could be an indication of deeper decline in the future.
"The market may be down, but if any anything there is nothing but positive news ahead," said industry analyst Robert B. Albertson of Goldman, Sachs & Co. "Banks are ahead of expectations and there is no indication that the (positive) trends will reverse."
Mr. Albertson added that "revenues remain decent and expense discipline remains intact."
Bank analyst Michael L. Mayo of Credit Suisse First Boston said he expects banks to continue to deliver steady, upward progress.
"These stocks are pausing to catch their breath after what has certainly been a heady run," he said referring to Thursday's market activity.
Other market experts, however, pointed out that bank stocks have steadily lost their position as market leaders to technology stocks.
"I think investors are finding more bang for their buck in other sectors," said a bank stock trader who declined to be identified.
Other industry sources suggested that part of the slippage in the banks' market role is attributable to sector rotation-specifically in this instance involving investors switching from bank stocks into technology stocks.
Some of the biggest decliners of the day included J.P. Morgan and Co., which fell $1.562 to $107.437, First Bank System Inc., off $1.312 to $88.68 and Suntrust Inc., which slipped $1.625 to $60.375.
Gainers included Chase Manhattan Corp., which rose 50 cents to $103.25; CoreStates Financial Corp., up $1.12 to $56.75 and First of America Corp., up $2.125 to $53.312.
Lehman Brothers Holding Inc. shares also surged 4% fueled by another round of merger rumors. Stock of the fourth-largest security firm in the United States rose $1.75 to $45.50 on twice heavy volume. Lehman is the frequent subject of merger rumors.
Potential acquirers include Chase Manhattan Corp., J.P. Morgan, and German bank Deustche Bank AG.
BankAmerica Corp. shares fell $1.375 to $67.75 in spite of a nod on Thursday from Gerard Klauer Mattison & Co.
Industry analyst George M. Salem of Gerard Klauer reiterated his "buy" rating on the stock and raised both his earnings estimates and target price for the company after its strong second-quarter earnings performance.
Mr. Salem raised his earnings estimate this year for the bank to $4.32 from $4.28 and his 1998 estimate to $4.90 from $4.80.
He raised his 12- to 18-month price target on the stock to $80 from $73.
Mr. Salem cautioned that BankAmerica's stock "may need a rest" after their strong performance during the first half, but he advised clients to "view any weakness as a buying opportunity."
BankAmerica's stock has more than doubled since yearend 1995, he noted, and is the best performing stock he follows.
Industry analyst Joel Silverstein of Deutsche Morgan Grenfell also reiterated his "buy" recommendation on the bank.